The Ridgecrest City Council announced Thursday that interim City Manager Ron Strand has been offered the job on a permanent basis.

The decision was made after what the city described as “months of planning and deliberation,” including closed session meetings on Sept. 27 and Oct. 9., according to City Clerk Ricca Charlon.

“He was offered the job and accepted it, now they just have to negotiate out the details,” Charlon said Thursday.

Strand has been acting as interim City Manager since former City Manager Dennis Speer stepped down in July. Prior to that Strand was Chief of the Ridgecrest Police Department.

According to a press release from the city, council met with four candidates on Monday. Candidates were asked a set of questions based on specific issues of concern identified by council members and input from the public. Applicants were all asked the same questions and were not given the questions in advance.

Strand was unanimously chosen by the five Ridgecrest City Council members.

Strand has a long history with the city, which according to council members weighed in his favor. The press release sites Strand's 30 years of service, his “outstanding job as Chief of Police” and his “solid reputation” and “innovative mindset” as positive factors. The release also mentioned council's members' opinion that Strand did “excellent steadfast work in the interim position.”

According to the release, “in the past 90 days, since serving as interim City Manager, the Council unanimously agreed that Strand has done an outstanding job in numerous areas including contract negotiation concerning waste management and other projects, several economic development and new project planning, and he is working well with the city attorney on several litigation issues. He has also proposed a recycle water process to offset our groundwater usage. He has been very responsive to council information requests and regular status update reporting.”

Mayor Peggy Breeden and Councilman Wallace Martin headed the overall hiring committee. Consultant Bill Mathis was hired to assist with the recruitment process. He identified more than a dozen qualified people and the list was eventually narrowed to the final four.

Martin said that the recruitment process was competitive but did not exclude locals from consideration.

“Some have been very vocal regarding the need for bringing in outside talent. But we could not simply discredit excellent local talent applications due to local longevity. The issue here is not longevity, its long-term integrity,” Martin said.

During a public input meeting on Aug. 30, those who spoke up said they had no preference as to gender but a strong preference for a city manager who lived in town.

“I think the willingness to move here and reside here is very important,” Dave Matthews said at the meeting.

Skip Gorman was even more specific.

“Tuesdays and Thursdays I want [the city manager] out in a pickup truck, a very recognizable pickup truck. He can be hailed to the side of the road and spoken with. And he knows the city up and down, right and left. He doesn’t have to be told where a specific intersection is,” Gorman said, speaking somewhat rhetorically about his desire for the city manager to be a local person.

Mathis, who ran the public meeting, said residency cannot be legally required, but community involvement and participation could be taken into consideration when making the decision.

According to the release, many of the larger pool of applicants were not willing to move to this area.

The release also states that Mathis is helping the city develop a five-year strategic business plan with specific goals and objectives for the city manager including ongoing tasking and expected results.

The release cites “reducing barriers and overcoming obstacles making our town more business and developer friendly” as a particular priority.

Charlon said exact details of Strand's contract will be negotiated at future closed session meetings and the contract itself will eventually come up for a council vote at a public meeting.

Strand told the Daily Independent Thursday he is looking forward to working on benefiting the city and the quality of life for everyone who lives and visits here.

“I am proud they selected me and I will do the best I can to move the city forward,” he said.

“We had so many wonderful candidates,” Breeden said Thursday. “It was a difficult choice. But when we looked at those who could jump on problems and nurture results, Ron didn’t need the six-month lead in to get used to the job.and the city has an urgent need for problem-solving.”