There’s a clear favourite to be handed Keys to our city

A STANDOUT outsider will need to emerge for the Albury Council to overlook Michael Keys for the city’s most powerful post.

The council’s search for a new general manager is well advanced with short-listed candidates making their final presentations to the nine-member council on Tuesday.

Mr Keys has been the acting general manager since December 2011 when Les Tomich had heart surgery.

Mr Tomich officially left the council at the end of last month after 26 years, including the past seven as general manager.

The short-list was recently formalised by a selection panel headed by mayor Alice Glachan and her deputy Kevin Mack.

It became clear Mr Keys was the heir apparent from within the council when he was promoted from planning and environment director position to be the acting general manager.

He also had a stint as acting general manager in 2010.

The successful applicant will take charge of an organisation with a $100 million budget and 400-plus staff.

The job comes with a salary package close to $300,000 — one of the biggest in regional NSW.

Mr Keys’ 12-month “audition” has coincided with the turbulence of an election year that resulted in five new faces being elected in September.

The election build-up was marred by a string of code of conduct complaints, largely involving three councillors no longer in public life.

The biggest challenge to emerge for the council since the election was it not receiving $3.5 million it had expected from the NSW government for the art gallery redevelopment.

Mr Keys and Cr Glachan have made repeated representations to the state government to match the commitments already made by the federal government and Albury ratepayers, but without success to date.

A subsequent staff recommendation for the council to cover the $3.5 million shortfall was rejected with opposition coming largely from the newly elected Cr Mack and Cr Darren Cameron.

The pair weren’t convinced the council had a mandate to commit an extra $3.5 million to the project with another round of community consultation, now in progress.

The council will re-visit the art gallery issue at its meeting next month when a new general manager will be in place.

Mr Keys was appointed a council director soon after Mr Tomich became general manager.

His portfolio at first included economic development. That led to his involvement in major commercial projects including the Borella Road homemaker centre, Gardens Medical Centre, Quest Apartments and Thurgoona shopping plaza.

David Christy has been the acting planning and environment director for a year.

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