Fort Smith City Administrator hopes to fill two key jobs by early 2023

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 964 views 

The city of Fort Smith filled five key positions in the city’s administration so far in 2022, but there are two more – one for public relations and one in the utility department – City Administrator Carl Geffken would like to see filled by early 2023.

Shari Cooper, the city’s public relations and communication manager, left her position with the city Oct. 11. She is now director of communications at Fort Smith Public Schools. Geffken said at the time of Cooper’s departure, the city published a vacancy notice to fill her position and received 11 applications. Those have been whittled down to eight who will move into the interview process, Geffken said.

“We have an interview panel with six people, three from outside the city plus the deputy city administrator, director of human resources, and me,” Geffken said.

He said ideally the interview date would be before Christmas and a job offer could be made in the first of the new year. The city hired Christina Williams to “keep the city’s positive communications momentum” going during the period it has been without a communications manager, Geffken said, noting Williams has been especially helpful with the city’s social media outlets and work on the new website.

“The communications position is critical to the city. The amount of information we now provide has grown exponentially, and we not only want to continue with what we currently do but expand it to include video spots with the mayor, the board of directors, the city administrator, and the department heads,” Geffken said.

In the past year, the city purchased and implemented the GovDelivery application from Granicus, which has increased the amount of information it provides to residents, something Geffken says has been a success. The city provides information in 30 different areas. Citizens can sign up for alerts, emails, updates and agendas at this link.

The city also needs to fill the deputy director of systems position in the Utility Department, Geffken said.

“This is a hard to fill position, and we have performed a nationwide search to fill it. We have one potential candidate for the position with whom we plan on meeting with in the next several weeks,” he said.

The city announced Nov. 9 it hired Rita Howard Watkins as the city’s new prosecuting attorney. Watkins began Oct. 31, filling when former prosecutor Sam Terry was appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to serve as District Court Judge in Sebastian County’s Fort Smith District.

Earlier this year, the city also hired Michael Mings as the city’s mobility coordinator, Candyce Gabucci as the director of community development, Nicole Riley as director of solid waste, and James Gentry as director information technology. All four, along with Watkins, report to the city administrator.