It's been nearly 14 months since Austin lost its top executive. Marc Ott left the city to accept the position of Executive Director of the International City/County Management Association.

"There's probably no more important decision that any city council makes than hiring the CEO of the city," said Mayor Steve Adler. "And that's what the city manager is."

But the council's process hasn't been without criticism. Last December, they held off on hiring the search firm city staff recommended, saying they wanted a firm that would cast a wide net of candidates. Two months later, they hired a firm that has never conducted a city manager search.

And then there are the interviews. While state law requires personnel interviews to be conducted in private, the council went to great lengths to try and keep the identities of the candidates they interviewed behind closed doors. At one point during the process, they apparently changed locations during the executive session to hold interviews.

"[The] Keystone Cops process where they're running from the press from one place to another to hide out when they do interviews, I've never seen that," said Peck Young.

Young is the Director of the Austin Community College Center of Public Policy & Political Studies. He's also been involved in city politics since the 1970s.

"This has been the most elaborate, strange, lengthy process that I've ever seen," Young said.

But Adler maintains keeping the candidates' identities private was key.

"When we started the process, the consultant told us that if we make all the names public that we're going to limit the number of people that apply and if you want to have the highest caliber candidate pool, then you offer to keep it confidential," Adler said.

Monday, Mayor Adler posted the names of six candidates on the council message board.

Spencer Cronck is currently the City Coordinator of Minneapolis.

Cecil House is the Senior Operations Executive of construction and real estate firm Gilbane Building Company. He previously ran the New York City Housing Authority.

Scott Kubly is the Director of the City of Seattle's transportation department.

Howard Lazarus spent eight years as Austin's Public Works Director before leaving to become the City Administrator of Ann Arbor.

Denise Roth is a Senior Advisor at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. She also served as Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration.

Maura Sullivan is Chattanooga's Chief Operating Officer.

Mayor Adler believes it's a solid bunch.

"Some of them have experience as city managers -- about half of them. All of them have some public exposure and involvement," he said.

But Young begs to differ.

"I'm wondering why we have people from small cities, people who have a cloud over 'em or somebody who's never run a city as our six crack finalists," he said.

The City Council will meet with a citizen task force on Dec. 3 to narrow the list down to three finalists. Adler said he hopes to name a City Manager by the end of the year.