More Straight Talk
By Steve “Stef” Stefanides
It was during the 1984 Presidential Debates that then President Ronald Reagan, running for a second four year term, successfully negated an attack on age when he said, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign; I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponents youth and inexperience.”
Those remarks brought down the house and many felt propelled Reagan to his second term in office and recognition that older Americans still had something of value to give to their nation.
In the United States the population aged 65 and older is growing rapidly. In 2010 statistics showed that they accounted for nearly 13 percent of the population. By 2030 it is estimated their ranks will grow to almost 20% or 72 million individuals.
The number of older people choosing to stay in the workforce has been growing also since the 1990s, and they now represent the fastest-growing segment of the nation’s workforce. It is estimated by 2020 they will account for nearly 25%, up from 19% in 2010.
One of the factors accounting for that growth lies in the fact that they are staying healthier longer and enjoy the challenges of work and want to stay productive well into their later 60s or beyond.
Two very well-known names who have no problems holding their own in the high paced business world are Warren Buffet and Roger Penske. There are many more who are now well above this mythical number some have attempted to use to disallow a potential candidate for the city manager’s job here within the city.
Locally, Bill Moss, the former city manager for the island, was 60 years of age a decade ago when he left to assume the position as the Naples City Manager. He is still one of the most respected members of his profession in Southwest Florida ten years later.
We should be looking at the competency of the individual to run our community, which is a $50 million dollar business when you combine both the city’s operational budgets and that of the municipal utility department which requires the shouldering of considerable debt from the past by our residents.
Within the community many have begun to use the old Wendy’s Hamburger chain slogan, “Where’s the Beef?” when it comes down to the selection process that has left the community with only one choice, while choosing to not offer an opportunity to another seasoned professional who appears to have all the requisite experience, background and maturity to lead the operations of the city.
This other potential candidate has 17 years extensive experience within municipal government, eight of which was as the Assistant City Manager in Clearwater, Florida, handling the response and rebuild after the 2004-2005 hurricane season. He would go onto Baytown, Texas, a Gulf Coast community next to Houston, Texas for three years for the city manager position there, before taking on the responsibilities as City Manager of Southington, Connecticut for the last six years.
In addition to those credentials, the gentleman retired with honors from the United States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel and as the Battalion Commander of Fort Hood, Texas as his last duty assignment after 20 years’ service to his nation, leaving some to wonder regarding the motivation behind his rejection.
The Mercer Group brought forward seven semi-finalists for consideration. Questionable activities within the past of at least one caused some on council to immediately question whether he should be advanced any further. Another ran a small community that caters to the oil and gas industry in New Mexico and utilizes no municipal taxes and only fees on an airport and other enterprise funds to manage a relatively small municipal budget of only $5 million dollars.
The only other gentleman to be offered an interview was from Pennsylvania. He unfortunately had no Florida experience, which was one of the items that some on council were seeking, as well as experience dealing within a coastal environment. The day after council voted to add him as the second person to the list he declined the opportunity, possibly sensing a decision had already been formulated.
Some have begun to question how the Mercer Group came to their conclusions and why a community such as ours attracted such a narrow group of candidates for such a wonderful opportunity. Some might question whether the die was cast well before the “official search” began. Others are questioning the process and its integrity, casting a shadow on the entire search process and the possible squandering of approximately $25,000 of taxpayers money, but more importantly the lack of transparency and honesty surrounding the process.
The choice of a professional to take over the reins of government and implement the policy decisions of our elected leadership is probably the most important challenge that will face this council. Our community deserves a better process. At the same time those of substance who choose to apply for this position deserve a more professional handling of their inquiries for that vacancy. If a candidate lacks the demonstrated experience, background, accomplishments and moral fiber, by all means reject the application based upon those criteria and nothing else.