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Zapata in top five Allison K. Sampite | Thu, Apr 21 2011 12:00 PM

National City City Manager Chris Zapata is one of five finalists being considered for the city manager post in Chandler, Ariz.

Zapata said the reasons for applying to Chandler are both professional and personal. He said he would like to be close to his mother who lives in Eloy, which is 40 miles outside of Chandler.

Zapata also sees the Arizona city's potential.

"I want to help a city realize its great vision. Chandler is a vibrant place with tremendous job placement and impressive transportation within their core," he said. 

Zapata, who is in the last year of his contract with National City, earns $165,000.

Chandler spokeswoman Nachie Marquez said the current Chandler interim city manager earns $176,000.

 "I'm at a stage in my career where I want to commit to a longtime career. I'm an individual with my own professional desires," Zapata said. 

National City Mayor Ron Morrison said he and the council support Zapata's efforts.

"We don't want to lose Chris but you don't fault people for looking at the market. There's full support for Chris and the city council has conveyed them to him," Morrison said.

Marquez said the application deadline was March 18 and the round of final interviews will be April 27 and 28.

The Chandler City Council is looking for someone with municipal government experience and interpersonal relationship skills as well as experience with finance and budgets, Marquez said.

According to The Arizona Republic, which first reported Zapata's consideration, former Chandler City Manager Mark Pentz retired nine months ago. The city council at the time said they wanted to delay hiring a new executive until after last year's November elections.

Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny said he expects the council to announce its selection next month.

Council members have said they want the next Chandler city manager to represent the city as a regional leader and continue the development of mass transit as well as lure new businesses. They also said they prefer the person be politically savvy, hold a master's degree in public administration and have no plans to retire in the near future.

Another hope is that the new city manager will restore credibility and develop positive relationships with employee unions.

Prior to coming to National City, Zapata was the deputy city manager for Glendale. During his time there, he helped develop the city's proposal, which secured the University of Phoenix Stadium. He formerly worked in the Arizona communities of Glendale, Superior, Eloy, Phoenix, Goodyear and Flagstaff over a 25-year period.

Zapata has worked in urban, rural and suburban cities ranging in population from more than one million to 3,500 and has local government experience in a variety of organizations, departments and positions.

In 2003, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano appointed Zapata as chairman of the Arizona Appellate Court Nominating Committee.

Chandler has a population of approximately 236,000 with a median income of $71,404.

 This story was updated at 1:58 p.m. on April 21, 2011.

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