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Fort Smith exec is job finalist

Administrator vying for city manager position in Florida by Max Bryan | June 11, 2021 at 3:26 a.m.

FORT SMITH -- City Administrator Carl Geffken is one of two finalists for the city manager's job in Clearwater, Fla.

Geffken and Kevin Woods, city manager of Thornton, Colo., are Clearwater's remaining two candidates after three of the five finalists for the position dropped out of the application process, according to Clearwater City Council members.

Geffken and Woods are scheduled to visit Clearwater for three days starting June 14, when they are to be interviewed by each of the city's five council members, as well as by the City Council collectively. They also are scheduled to tour the city and participate in a community forum, according to the city's preliminary schedule.

"If there isn't a good fit next week, I'm willing to go back to the drawing board. I hope that isn't the case. I hope we've got a love connection," Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard said at the council's meeting Wednesday.

Jennifer Piorrier, human resources director for Clearwater, did not say the hiring decision was expected.

Geffken notified the Fort Smith Board of Directors about his job search, according to Andre Good, Ward 2 board director.

Good, who has been on the board during three city administrator searches, said the city likely will conduct a national search for Geffken's replacement if he leaves. He estimated the process could last four to five months, and Jeff Dingman, deputy city administrator, would assume the city administrator's responsibilities in the meantime.

As of 2019, Fort Smith had a population of about 88,000, while Clearwater had 117,000 residents, according to U.S. Census estimates.

Geffken did not return messages left for him by phone, text and email Thursday afternoon.

Geffken was hired in Fort Smith in May 2016, succeeding former city administrator Ray Gosack. He was previously chief operating officer for Berks County, Pa., and managing director of Reading, Pa.

As city administrator, Geffken has helped secure a five-year extension of Fort Smith's consent decree, which the Department of Justice lodged against the city in 2015 for allowing sewage runoff into the Arkansas River. He also has hired two police chiefs -- Nathaniel Clark in 2016 and Danny Baker in 2019 -- who have taken steps to improve community policing, officer diversity, technology and alternatives to incarceration in the Police Department.

But Geffken has also drawn criticism for making decisions without notifying the public ahead of time, such as trying to include an alcohol tax in the city's 2021 budget without consulting bar and restaurant owners, and removing flags from Riverfront Park.

Good said he will miss Geffken because of his institutional knowledge and relationship with community members if he is hired by Clearwater.

CORRECTION: Ray Gosack was the former Fort Smith city administrator. An earlier version of this story misspelled his name.

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