City Attorney

City of Cedar Rapids, IA | Full-time

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The Position

The City Attorney is the chief legal counsel for the City of Cedar Rapids and serves as the primary legal advisor to the City Council, Boards and Commissions, and all city officials. Appointed by the Mayor and City Council, this position provides an outstanding opportunity to address the most complex legal challenges, work closely with elected officials to carry out Council priorities, partner with city leadership, and lead a team of dedicated professionals in service to the Cedar Rapids community. The City Attorney role is open following the retirement of a long-serving City Attorney.

Reporting to City Council and working very closely with the City Manager, the City Attorney provides sound legal advice to the Council on significant policy, project, litigation, potential conflicts of interest, and financial matters through written opinions based on extensive institutional experience, legal research, and contract drafting. The City Attorney attends all City Council meetings and either drafts or reviews ordinances, orders, and resolutions issued by the City that come before the City Council. The City Attorney engages as a member of the City’s Leadership Team and actively participates in strategic, city-wide discussions. The City Attorney routinely advises City departments on appropriate action for various legal issues, particularly those involving City-wide policies or politically sensitive issues.

The City Attorney’s team carries a full litigation caseload that includes tort and personal injury cases, worker’s compensation claims, civil rights actions in state and federal courts, constitutional litigation, zoning matters, and eminent domain proceedings. The City Attorney’s Office prosecutes violations of the Cedar Rapids Municipal Code, such as criminal misdemeanors and civil infractions related to regulating buildings, housing, zoning, and other various trades.

Priorities

  • Continue providing expert legal advice and successfully defend the City in litigation.
  • Effectively partner with the City Manager and engage with department directors to understand operational issues that may have legal implications and where departments need legal assistance.
  • Assess and evaluate critical operations of the City Attorney’s office, including hiring needs, workload assignments and delegation, use of outside counsel, project and process management, and strategic office goals to ensure timely legal representation.
  • Continue support and legal advice on major city initiatives such as the community oversight board for the Police Department, flood control project, zoning code issues, Charter Review Commission, and the Airport Commission.

The Successful Candidate

The successful candidate is apolitical yet politically astute, with a strong history of developing effective relationships with the Mayor and City Council to provide sound legal advice and interpretation. A confident leader, the successful candidate effectively navigates controversial issues and is strong and humble enough to stand up to pressure and provide unpopular advice when needed. With unquestioned integrity and sound ethics, the City Attorney is considered a thought partner dedicated to public service and always works in the City’s best interest.

The successful candidate partners with legal staff to develop creative options while still providing sound legal advice to complex local government problems. The City Attorney has substantial local government law experience and leverages that knowledge to anticipate issues and proactively identify risk and develop strategies for legally sound positions. An active listener, the successful candidate is an effective communicator and produces clear and concise written communication.

With an inclusive and approachable style, the City Attorney develops positive relationships throughout the City, establishing a high level of trust and actively collaborating with others to achieve objectives. Acting as an integral part of the leadership team, the next City Attorney has a successful track record of building relationships and collaborating as a partner with the City Council and the City Manager with strong municipal government experience. The City Attorney is proactive in serving the City by identifying potential legal issues and intertwining policy and legal advice around new court rulings and emerging law trends affecting the City. The next City Attorney suggests process improvements to provide clarity for all stakeholders through assessment of current procedures and policies.

The City Attorney genuinely encourages and supports collaboration and employs a leadership style which invites participation and solicits input. The ideal candidate is known for building trust and empowering employees, leveraging the staff’s in-depth knowledge and expertise to seek efficient, creative, and practical solutions while producing high-quality work. Also, a visionary, the next City Attorney has an eye for continuous improvement ready to utilize department talents to collaborate on developing departmental strategic goals.

Qualifications

Minimum requirements are a J.D. from an accredited law school, seven (7) years in the practice of municipal law, ideally with a successful track record as a City Attorney, Deputy or Assistant City Attorney, or experience in a private law firm advising municipal governments with a full range of municipal services, or a similar role in an equivalent type of organization, in order to fulfill the requirements of the City successfully. Applicants must also be a member in good standing of the Iowa State Bar or be eligible to practice law in Iowa by motion (having practiced law in another state or the District of Columbia for five of the last seven years).

Preferred qualifications include a candidate who is a member of the Iowa State Bar, with emphasis and experience in one or more specialty areas, such as land use, real property, public meetings and records, public contracts, and civil and administrative law relating to municipal governments, and litigation. Experience with court processes and procedures, including at the appellate level, is preferred. The ability to be bonded in accordance with City standards is required.

The City Attorney will be required to live within the city limits of Cedar Rapids within three months from the date of employment. An additional three months may be granted by the City Council if the employee provides documentation of financial commitment to move within the residency area.

Inside the City of Cedar Rapids

Since 2006, the City of Cedar Rapids has operated under the council-manager form of government. The elected body appoints a City Manager to oversee the day-to-day administrative operations of city government. The Cedar Rapids City Council consists of eight Council members and the Mayor. The Mayor and three Council members are elected at large, with the remaining five members elected from one of the City’s five districts. All members of the Council, including the Mayor, are elected to four-year terms.

The organization consists of the following departments: Building Services, Community Development, Finance, Fire, Human Resources, Parks and Recreation, Police, Public Works, and Utilities. Directors from each department report to the City Manager, the Deputy City Manager, and the Finance Director.

The FY 2021 expenditure budget is $600 Million, of which $142.2 Million is appropriated to the General Fund. Approximately 1,514 FTEs encompass the City’s workforce in FY 2022.

Vision Statement

“Cedar Rapids, a vibrant urban hometown – a beacon for people and businesses invested in building a greater community now and for the next generation.”

Awards and Recognition

  • 14th best-run city in America in 2020 (WalletHub)
  • #2 most recession-resistant city in 2020 (SmartAsset)
  • 11th best American city to live in after the pandemic (Business Insider)
  • #1 best place in America for children for five years in a row (SmartAsset)
  • 18th safest city in America in 2019 (WalletHub)
  • 12th best city to buy a house in America in 2019 (Niche)
  • 16th most livable mid-sized city in America in 2019 (SmartAsset)
  • Top 100 best places to live in 2019 (Money.com)
  • 2020 most caring city in Iowa (Insurify)
  • 8th best city for living the American dream in 2019 (SmartAsset)

Inside The City Attorney’s Department

The City Attorney’s office consists of the City Attorney, three Assistant City Attorneys, and two Legal Assistants. The FY 2022 budget is $0.9 Million. The department is currently defending the City in 62 open lawsuits and filed 58 new court cases in 2020.

Recent Accomplishments

  • Provided legal support for COVID-19 pandemic initiatives such as drafting emergency proclamations and guidance regarding federal legislation such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA).
  • Defended the City in multiple court cases.
  • Provided legal assistance for the August 2020 Derecho Recovery Initiatives such as procurement of emergency goods and services.

The Community

Situated on the banks of the Cedar River in eastern Iowa, Cedar Rapids is a thriving Midwestern community rich in history, art, and culture. As Iowa's second-largest city, Cedar Rapids is a central economic hub and enjoys a diverse, stable business environment. The community is affordable, inclusive, and safe – the qualities often cited as the reasons Cedar Rapids is one of the nation's best places to live, work, and raise a family. Cedar Rapids has something for everyone with ample parkland and green space, a large variety of nightlife and restaurant options, and a year-round calendar of exciting events.

There is never a shortage of things to do in Cedar Rapids. The City's expansive park and trail system span more than 4,170 acres of land and green space and 70+ miles of trails and bikeways, and the Cedar River provides a wide range of water recreation opportunities. Cedar Rapids even has a small island on the Cedar River. Mays Island houses the Linn County District Court and Correctional Center, the Veterans Memorial Building and Coliseum, and two small parks. Downtown Cedar Rapids is a dining destination, and the nearby Veterans Memorial Stadium is home to Minor League Baseball's Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Minnesota Twins affiliate team.

For those seeking culture and history, the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, African American Museum of Iowa, and historic Paramount Theatre are sure to please. The Czech Village/New Bohemia District, located in the heart of Cedar Rapids, celebrates the community's distinct Czech heritage. Home to the most extensive collection of Grant Wood paintings in the world at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and the Brucemore Mansion – Iowa's only National Trust Historic Site – Cedar Rapids has unique offerings that can't be topped.

Cedar Rapids boasts a large and diverse tax base due to its substantial amount of commercial, health care, food processing, manufacturing, telecommunication, and aerospace companies. The City's largest employers include Collins Aerospace, Transamerica, St. Luke's Hospital, and Cedar Rapids Community School District. Other sizeable industrial utility users include International Paper, Ingredion, ADM, JRS Pharma, Cargill, and Dupont. General Mills and Quaker Oats also have plants here.

The Cedar Rapids Community School District serves most students in the community, with portions of the City served by the Linn-Mar Community School District and the College Community School District. Higher education opportunities are available at one of the two private liberal arts universities in Cedar Rapids – Coe College and Mt. Mercy University.  Kirkwood Community College is in Cedar Rapids and the University of Iowa is less than 30 miles south of the City.

Every year, the Cedar Rapids community experiences the wonders of changing seasons in typical Midwestern fashion. Some say taking the time to appreciate everyday beauty extends life, almost like an extra season is added to every year. Cedar Rapids offers a unique balance of big city amenities without all the typical hassles and headaches of a large city. This extra time afforded to residents and visitors is why Cedar Rapids is known as "The City of Five Seasons." This fifth season affords residents time to enjoy all other seasons and to enjoy life.

Quick Facts

  • Population: 134,268 (2021)
  • Median Household Income: $58,511
  • Median Home Value: $141,800
  • Median Age: 36.3

All demographic information was sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Compensation and Benefits

The expected starting salary range will be commensurate with experience (no lower than $170,000 and may begin higher, depending on experience). Learn more about the City’s excellent benefit options here.

How to Apply

Applications will be accepted electronically by The Novak Consulting Group. Applicants complete a brief online form and are prompted to provide a cover letter and resume. Apply immediately, but applications will be accepted through August 30, 2021.

Questions

Please direct questions to Catherine Tuck Parrish at apply@thenovakconsultinggroup.com or 513-221-0500.

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