Council selects Neely as city manager

Robert Smith

Pawhuska city councilors Thursday evening voted to hire Dave Neely, the assessor of Nowata County, to become city manager Aug. 1.

The council voted 5-0 to give Neely a two-year deal with a salary of $70,000 per year, a $500-per-month car allowance and six months of severance.

Councilors voted after discussing the hire in an executive session Thursday that began about 5 p.m. and lasted nearly an hour and a half.

“Congratulations, you’ve got a new problem,” Pawhuska Mayor Roger Taylor jokingly told Neely right after the vote.

Neely is the elected assessor of Nowata County. He said he is in his second term in that position. He explained his decision to seek the Pawhuska city manager job by saying he’s a person who enjoys a good adventure and he’s ready for a new one.

“I would not leave if I did not feel like I have the best help in the world,” he said.

Neely said he has previously served as city manager in four municipalities — Nowata, Wetumka, Tonkawa and Lindsay.

Larry Eulert, a former Hominy city manager and former Hominy city councilor, has filled in as city manager for Pawhuska since the October 2017 resignation of Mike McCartney. Pawhuska councilors decided this spring to move ahead with the process of finding a permanent replacement for McCartney and they advertised the position.

In a special meeting May 9, the council interviewed five city manager candidates, but did not immediately make a decision. The council set May 17 as a date to continue its discussions about the job candidates, but canceled that meeting and rescheduled for last Thursday.

Neely said his family owned an insurance business in Nowata, beginning in 1920, and he bought into the business in 1981. He said that he sold his business several years ago, before running for Nowata County assessor.

Neely shared a bit of his perception of Pawhuska.

“It’s a destination city now,” he said, referring to the increased business growth, including growth in tourism, that Pawhuska has experienced since the opening of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in 2016.

Eulert said he anticipates staying on as city manager through the end of July.