7:06 p.m. EST, January 6, 2012

Looking to hire a new manager who would help the city shed its recent history of financial problems and scandals, city leaders on Friday sought a fresh face.

At the age of 40, Doug Hewett had the freshest.

Hewett, most recently an assistant city manager in Fayetteville, N.C., topped out five other candidates vying to be Hollywood's top executive.

"He is a rising star. Is it risky to go with someone so young and who has never been a city manager?" asked Commissioner Heidi O'Sheehan. "Sometimes risks pays off and I think he is a perfect fit."

City officials will now start salary negotiations with Hewett before he is officially hired. If a deal can be hammered out, Hewett will replace former City Manager Cameron Benson, who was resigned under pressure in June under a storm of financial woes and controversy.

The six finalists on Friday took turns giving final power-point presentation on themselves in front of a room full of elected officials, city staffers and a handful of residents.

Hewett's energetic presentation on what he plans to do on the first 90 days on the job seem to have garnered the most attention and questions from city leaders.

Among the main questions for Hewett and immediate challenges: how to turn the city's finances around; how to fix the city's rocky relationship with the unions and how to combat blight in neighborhoods plagued with foreclosures.

But it was Commissioner Linda Sherwood who finally asked how such a young man will be able to solve the problems others much older and experienced have failed to fix.

"Unfortunately, there is a new normal we all have to live with. The resources are simply not there to do business as it was done before," Hewett answered. "My age allows me to be more adaptable and flexible to deal with that new normal."

Five of the seven commissioners selected Hewett as their top candidate. Most cited his youth and charisma as a main reason.

"He is a person who is coming with new ideas and it really seems like he wants to learn," said Commissioner Patty Asseff.

Mayor Peter Bober, who began his own political career at age 27 and who initiated efforts to oust Benson, said he sees beyond youthful exuberance.

"We have seen many slick people come to talk to us over the years," he said. "Doug Hewett spoke from the heart."

As an assistant city manager in North Carolina, Hewett oversaw the city's sanitation, transit and human relations departments. He has been with Fayetteville since 2004 and in city government since 1996, previously working as an assistant to the city manager in Wilmington, N.C.

In August, the city commission hired a private firm to help conduct the search for a new city manager. Benson, who made $205,000 a year, was dismissed after city leaders learned there was a $10.3 million budget shortfall last fiscal year.