The Billings City Council voted unanimously Friday to offer the city administrator job to Greg Doyon, who has been the Great Falls City manager since 2008.
At a special meeting in the Billings Public Library, City Councilman Brent Cromley made the motion to offer the job to Doyon, even though he said in his remarks before the vote that his top pick among four finalists was Ron Alles, a Billings native and city manager in Helena.
Cromley said after the vote that he got the clear sense from listening to the other council members that Doyon was the favorite, and he wanted to the vote to be unanimous, if possible. He also made it clear in his pre-vote remarks that he’d be happy with either candidate.
The selection followed a months-long process of finding a successor for Tina Volek, who retired on Sept. 30 after serving as city administrator for 13 years, the longest tenure since Billings adopted a council-administrator form of government in 1977.
Besides Doyon and Alles, candidate finalists were Kevin Smith, general manager of the Truckee Tahoe Airport District in California, and David Fraser, the former city administrator in Boulder City, Nev.
Mayor Tom Hanel and all eight council members present said their top two choices were Doyon and Alles, with four members — Mike Yakawich, Ryan Sullivan, Chris Friedel and Angela Cimmino — stating their clear preference for Doyon.
Cromley, Hanel and Al Swanson came down in favor of Alles, but all three said they’d be happy if Doyon were selected. Councilmen Larry Brewster and Dick Clark said they liked Doyon and Alles, without stating a clear preference for either.
Two council members, Shaun Brown and Rich McFadden, were absent, but Yakawich told his colleagues that Brown told him his two top picks were “Greg and Greg,” probably the strongest endorsement of Doyon there was, though Brown was not able to vote because he was in Helena Friday.
Doyon also won the endorsement of city department heads. Before council discussion of the selection, acting City Administrator Bruce McCandless, who had been Volek’s assistant administrator and did not apply for the top job, spoke on behalf of the department heads, who spent an hour and a half with each of the candidates on Thursday.
McCandless said the leadership team believed any of the four candidates could have been a good administrator, but “we believe that Mr. Doyon has the edge over the other candidates.” He said that the department heads didn’t find any negatives among the competitors for the job, and that Doyon simply “exceeded what we saw with the other candidates.”
Doyon also dealt with a larger crisis than any of the others, he said, referencing the bankruptcy of a public utility of which the city of Great Falls was part. Yakawich also found it impressive that Doyon appeared to be the only candidate to have read the entire Billings City Charter.
Sullivan described Doyon as articulate and upwardly mobile, a leader who is destined for bigger and better things, giving Billings a chance to “catch a high-flier” on his way up. And though he also liked Alles, Sullivan said, Billings needs an ambitious, dynamic person to take the city into the future.
“I really think Greg could be that guy,” he said.
Doyon, 48, has been the city manager in Great Falls since 2008 and before that was the city manager in Franklin, N.H., and planning director for Sandpoint, Idaho. A native Windham, Maine, he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Southern Maine, and in 1995 he earned a master of public administration degree from the University of Idaho. That is according to a partial resume posted on the city of Great Falls website.
That same source said Doyon attended the International City/County Managers Association’s Senior Executive Institute at the University of Virginia’s Colgate Darden School of Business in 2011, and in 2014 he was was a named an ICMA fellow and awarded a scholarship to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program.
It further said that Doyon has worked as a reserve police officer, emergency medical technician, recreation director, planning director and town administrator.
McCandless said the city has retained Tom Singer, a private attorney in Billings, to negotiate a contract with Doyon. When Volek retired as city administrator, her annual salary was $155,000.
Doyon could not be reached for comment Friday.