MORE than 20 applicants have put themselves forward to become the city’s next top civic chief.

The candidates, aiming to replace outgoing Southampton City Council chief executive Dawn Baxendale, will now be shortlisted by a team of leading councillors.

Council leader Simon Letts said he was “pleased” with the standard of applicants.

As previously reported in the Echo, Ms Baxendale is set to leave her six-figure post in April to become the new chief executive of Birmingham City Council.

Ms Baxendale is expected to earn up to £210,000-a-year in her new role at the Labour-run authority, dubbed one of the biggest in Western Europe.

She replaces interim chief executive Stella Manzie, who faced calls to resign last year by union Unite.

It followed a waste collection strike, which left residents with overflowing dustbins for several weeks.

Commenting on Ms Baxendale’s departure, Councillor Letts said: “This shows the strides Southampton City Council has made over the last few years.

“The largest local authority in western Europe has come to headhunt our own chief executive.

“Dawn is leaving for professional development reasons and we wish her the best of luck.”

Ms Baxendale has held the role of chief executive at Southampton City Council since 2013.

She was promoted from her role as director of environment and economy, a position she held for four years.

She draws on 20 years’ public sector experience – 14 serving as a senior manager delivering multi-million pound capital programmes and revenue services.

Ms Baxendale is set to leave her current role on April 1.

In the meantime, the city council’s Chief Officer Employment Panel will look to bring in an interim chief executive.

At a meeting next Monday, the group, made up of both Labour and Conservative members, will also shortlist applicants in running to become Ms Baxendale’s permanent successor.