Wikel named assistant city manager

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Rex Wikel, at left, answers a question from Bob Hood, a representative of a charitable group that visited Pawhuska last week. Photo by Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

Pawhuska’s interim City Manager Larry Eulert said he has named Rex Wikel to the post of assistant city manager. Wikel had been police chief since last fall, when he replaced Scott Laird in that job.

“I have been showing Rex kind of on a day-to-day basis what goes on as city manager,” Eulert said. Eulert agreed to serve as interim city manager after the October 2017 resignation of City Manager Mike McCartney. Eulert had previously been city manager in Hominy and a member of the Hominy City Council. He is a former banker.

Pawhuska Mayor Roger Taylor recently told the Journal-Capital that Eulert agreed to help out for about a year and the City Council has been slow to commence the process of finding a permanent city manager. Taylor said it is time for the councilors to make the transition.

Taylor said the council had advertised for applicants for the city manager job, and he anticipated there will likely be interviews of candidates in the latter half of May.

Eulert told the Journal-Capital that he does not handle incoming applications for the city manager job. He said the applications go directly to City Clerk Barbara Smith, who passes them to city attorney John Heskett.

Sources on the council and close to it have indicated members of the panel are divided about how to proceed in hiring a new city manager, with some councilors favoring a “local” candidate such as Wikel, who is a fourth-generation Pawhuskan, and other councilors being open to a wider search process that could result in a non-local candidate being hired.

The council is, itself, going through a transition. Jourdan Foran, who defeated Ward 2 Councilor Steve Holcombe in the April general election, will be taking office at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday.

In addition to Foran filling the Ward 2 seat that evening, the council is expected to vote on officers. Taylor, who will be beginning a new council term Monday, could be voted back in as mayor or another council member could take over the job. Councilor Rodger Milleson is currently vice mayor. He could be voted back into that position, or someone else could fill it.

The movement of Wikel into the assistant city manager post has caused public comment, with some Pawhuska residents and residents of other parts of Osage County taking the move as a sign that it is a “done deal” that Wikel will be the next city manager. Concerns have been expressed about whether the selection process will be viewed by the public as fair.

There has also been speculation that Nick Silva will be the next Pawhuska police chief. Wikel has indicated that Silva would likely be the next chief. Eulert indicated Monday that if Wikel is selected as permanent city manager, Silva would likely be the next police chief.