By Noelle H. Lowery
It’s official. Marco Island Finance Director Guillermo “Gil” Polanco will be pulling double-duty for the next four months, also acting as the city’s interim City Manager. He officially accepted the temporary post Monday, September 30, which was former City Manager Jim Riviere’s last day on the job.
City council unanimously voted to appoint Polanco interim City Manager at a special meeting last Monday, while also selecting a new executive search firm — Norcross, GA-based Slavin Management Consultants — to continue the hunt for a new city manager. To help Polanco, council also designated former City Councilor Dr. Bill Trotter as an unpaid special advisor to Polanco.
Humbled and honored by the confidence of the city council, Polanco requested that he be allowed a week to discuss the situation with his wife before accepting the role. “Thanks for the offer,” Polanco said to the council. “I will do my best to keep the boat floating.”
To be sure, the council’s decision to appoint an interim City Manager and to nominate Polanco might seem questionable. The city’s past experiences with interim city managers — think Dana Sousa — have ended very badly, and Polanco has served as Marco Island’s finance director for less than a year. Some may argue there are other department heads in the city with longer tenure that also could do the job.
City councilors, though, think the work Polanco has done thus far and his short time with the city are a perfect fit for the interim City Manger position. “Because of his short tenure, he hasn’t accumulated political baggage,” Councilor Larry Honig indicated in an interview after the special meeting.
“His short tenure doesn’t concern me,” said Councilor Larry Sacher, who seconded Chairman Joe Batte’s motion, nominating Polanco. “He’s been around long enough to know how the city operates, and I’m quite confident that he’s bright enough and that he’s seen the weaknesses in our management that I’ve spoken about since being elected.”
His recent work on the FY2014 budget, the city’s new financial software and a special project on city-sponsored retirement plans also won over city councilors. “I am impressed with his ability,” Batte noted. “He has come into the city brand new, and has taken a terrific hold of what we’ve asked him to do. Every time, we have put him to task, he has always come through. He is a solid professional, and he will do well and continue to do well.”
The council also constructed a resolution, naming Polanco the interim City Manager and the subsequent additions to his employment agreement in order to avoid any backlash from decisions he makes during his time as interim City Manager. Chiefly, the resolution states that Polanco will discuss and work with the city council on “any appointment, suspension, demotion or dismissal or any alteration of the contract terms of any city employee… in advance of such action,” including the appointment of City Clerk. This was a sticking point in the creation of the resolution because, by means of the city charter, the interim City Manager holds all of the same powers and privileges of the permanent City Manager. There is really no distinction, and as such, city councilors wanted to make certain no major changes would be made without their input.
For his work as interim city manager, Polanco will be paid an additional $3,000 in salary each month, and a termination benefits package has been added to his current employment agreement. This package will encompass six months of severance for Polanco in the event he is terminated from his position as finance director for any act related to his term as interim City Manager for a two-year period after his final day of service in the temporary position.
“I think (Gil) is the best fit right now,” said Batte. “The timing is right because he just finished the budget… He is the perfect fit and will bring a fresh perspective… I had to decide in my mind who would be the best fit, and that would be Gil.”