Upper Arlington City Council intends to hire a consultant to help find its next city manager.

"We're going to hire a search firm to help us network," council President Kip Greenhill said. "This will be a nationwide search, so we need someone to help us search nationwide."

The city is seeking to replace its top administrator. Ted Staton retired Jan. 31 and died Feb. 12. He had been on leave since last September while being treated for esophageal cancer.

Assistant City Manager Dan Ralley has been serving as interim city manager since Feb. 1.

In addition to opening the position to applicants, the firm would be charged with recruiting qualified candidates.

"This won't be simply hanging out the help sign," Greenhill said. "We'd like to offer a contract this summer, but that has to be flexible.

"Council is going to take their time on this," he said. "All seven of us agree this is one of the most important decisions we make as a council. We're going to be very deliberate."

Greenhill said council expects to select a search firm by March 4.

Once the search firm has created a pool of applicants, Greenhill said, council members will select finalists. Those top candidates then will be interviewed by council members, various city staffers and selected community members.

Greenhill said council has yet to determine how it will choose residents to be part of the process, but they will be "representative of the community."

Ralley, who has been assistant city manager since July 2014, said he intends to apply for the job.

"It is my intention to apply for the city manager position," Ralley said. "Having served as city manager previously in another community (Petoskey, Michigan), as well as here in Upper Arlington on an interim basis, it's a role that I enjoy and find rewarding.

"Upper Arlington is a wonderful community, and I'd like to be part of helping to chart its future."

In the meantime, Ralley said, he's committed to ensuring the city operates smoothly during its leadership transition. He said the city staff "has worked collaboratively on a variety of projects and issues in order to keep major goals and objectives for the city moving forward during this period."