After more than 20 years of service to the city, Hermiston City Manager Ed Brookshier is set to retire next year, and the City Council is preparing to launch a search for his replacement.

“This is the most important decision you will make,” Brookshier said to the City Council at a meeting Monday night.

After an executive session to review Brookshier’s performance during the last year, the City Council and Mayor Dave Drotzmann discussed the protocol for interviewing the firms vying for the task of identifying potential candidates for the city manager position.

Three companies, two from Oregon and one from Arizona, will present their credentials before the council and answer questions from the mayor with follow-up questions potentially coming from council members.

Brookshier said he will assist the city with the process of identifying the qualities of preferred candidates but will not comment on specific individuals.

Drotzmann said Brookshier has been an asset to the community as city manager.

“Thank you for your service to the city,” Drotzmann said. “We appreciate your dedication to the community and we look forward to a robust and complete year of your contract.”

Drotzmann told council members the meetings with the three firms will be Nov. 20 and to prepare questions in advance.

Councilman George Anderson expressed a desire to have some overlap in the tenure of the new city manager and Brookshier in order to “show the new city manager the ropes.” Drotzmann agreed with Anderson that having Brookshier stay on briefly to assist his replacement would be advantageous for the ease of transition.

“You have 23 years of service, and we will want to share that institutional knowledge,” Drotzmann said to Brookshier.

Brookshier said he was willing to do what was necessary to make the transition as smooth as possible for the council and the community.

“I will do whatever I can to help,” Brookshier said.

Brookshier will step down in December 2014.

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