Bozeman City Hall

A look at Bozeman City Hall on Rouse Avenue.

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Bozeman has its interim city manager and a path lined up to find the city’s next top employee.

The Bozeman City Commission unanimously picked Helena resident Dennis Taylor as the city’s interim city manager Monday. In the same vote, commissioners agreed to let sitting manager Andrea Surratt end her work with the city on Thursday.

Mayor Cyndy Andrus said the interim role is important for city staff to continue their work as commissioners look for a replacement to lead city hall. 

She echoed other commissioners who said they didn’t want to see Surratt leave but said she’s grateful Taylor is ready to step in.

“He’s definitely someone who I think will be able to keep our ship afloat and keep us on course while we continue to look for a new city manager,” Andrus said.

Surratt announced she accepted a job in Sandy Springs, Georgia, last week. She has served as Bozeman’s city manager for roughly two years. She said the move puts her closer to family and comes with a pay increase.

Taylor, 73, has a long history in local government and will have the job managing Bozeman’s budget and roughly 400 employees starting Thursday.

Taylor isn’t new to Bozeman or city management.

He served as the city of Bozeman’s interim manager in 2017 before Surratt’s arrival. Taylor said in an interview Monday that experience set him up well to help lead Bozeman through the search for a replacement.

“In some respects, I feel like I’m more up to speed now than in 2017,” Taylor said. “I’m familiar with the city’s growth policy issues, familiar with its strategic plan ... That made me feel like I could arrive in Bozeman on short notice and add value.”

Taylor has held city management positions in Missoula, Helena, Billings and Eugene, Oregon. He joked that after retiring in 2007, he fell into the niche of interim work.

He served as the city of Helena’s interim mayor for nearly seven months until earlier this year. He worked in a similar interim city manager role in Whitefish and for a community health center in Helena.

Taylor will make $13,459 a month and receive up to $3,600 for a monthly housing stipend.

Taylor said he’s not interested in a permanent job in Bozeman, adding Helena is home for him and his wife. 

He said it will be important Bozeman finds a manager who will ideally help lead the town over the next five to seven years. He said work to find a recruitment firm will start this week.

That’s a quicker turnaround than when Bozeman commissioners replaced the city’s last manager, Chris Kukulski, in 2017. Kukulski had the job for more than a decade.

At the time, it took commissioners roughly three months from the time they started talking about finding a new manager to interviewing recruiting firms for the effort. It took the city roughly seven months from beginning that work to Surratt’s arrival.

Andrus set the stage for the city to cut down on the time it takes to begin the search. As part of that, commissioners agreed Monday to let Taylor pick a recruitment firm that will help pool and narrow down candidates for the job.

Deputy Mayor Chris Mehl said while Monday’s decision speeds up the search’s initial stages, it still gives the next commission that meets in 2020 time to discuss how to find the right person for the job.

Commissioners plan to meet sometime in January to define what characteristics they want in Bozeman’s city manager. At that point, Mehl will be mayor with Andrus returning as deputy mayor. The body will still include commissioners Terry Cunningham and I-Ho Pomeroy, and will include newcomer Michael Wallner.

Cunningham said Monday’s vote moves things ahead without rushing the process.

“This is the most important decision I think I’m going to make on this commission,” Cunningham said. “So I think we should expedite it but not rush it because it impacts over 400 employees reporting to this person.”

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Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628. 

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