After what many might describe as a long and arduous process, the City of Marco Island had white smoke billowing from the chimney above council chambers last evening as they voted to approve a contract with David Harden to assume the position of Interim City Manager.
Harden will assume the role which was being filled by Gil Polanco who will now return to his position as the city’s finance director. Polanco had been filling that role for almost two years prior to last evening’s choice by council.
Harden had been one of three candidates brought forward last fall by Ken Parker, a senior advisor from the Florida Association of County and City Managers for consideration to fill the interim position while the city continues it search for a permanent professional to fill the long vacant post of city manager.
Harden has had a long career within municipal government, beginning in 1971 as a planner in Orange County, Florida.
Other positions held by Harden were as follows;
- 1974-77 City Planner in Winter Park, Florida
- 1977-89 City Manager in Winter Park
- 1989-90 Consultant on Stormwater Utilities, Environmental Audits, Nominations to the National Register of Historic Places
- 1990-2013 City Manager Delray Beach.
- 2014-15 Interim City Manager in Port Orange, Florida
- 2015-17 Asst. Director of Public Services, Utilities and Public Works in the Village of Palm Springs, Florida
During his twenty-three-year career in Delray Beach the city was named an “All American City” in 1993 and 2001. In 1994 it was named the “Best Run Town in Florida. In addition to those accolades it was awarded the Muehlenbewck Award for Excellence in Local Government in 2006 for innovation.
Harden was a graduate of Okeechobee High School and received a B.A. in Chemistry from Emory University in 1964. He would go on to receive a master’s in city planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1968.
The city has been in pursuit of a replacement for former City Manager Roger Hernstadt who tended his resignation in February of 2017. They would employ the Mercer Group as part of a nationwide search for his replacement. They would initially reject the first candidate for that position, due to a lack of a “super-majority” vote to hire that individual. That would force them to move forward on a second search which would result in the hiring of Dr. Lee Niblock from Alachua County Florida.
Niblock would receive the “super-majority” vote of 5 councilors in November of 2017 and would begin his employment in December of 2017, to only become charged in a case of first-degree misdemeanor battery. That charge was brought against him for unwanted sexual advances against the principal of the Marco Island Academy. Council would vote to discharge him for “cause,” in March of 2018. In the meantime, Niblock is awaiting trial in late January of 2019 in Collier County.
Late in 2018 Councilor Charlette Roman brought forward the concept of utilizing the services of a group of Senior Advisors from the Florida Association of City and County Managers’ Association to continue the search. Their services in helping communities seek temporary assistance in filling interim roles for administrators is done free of charge for its members.
Harden was chosen from that group and Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz was tasked with negotiating a contract for services for council and Harden’s approval.
Harden will receive $15,000 per month for his services. He will not receive any relocation expenses, health or retirement benefits. Harden has found housing on the island and will receive monetary assistance up to $10,000, should his services be terminated before the end of his lease because the city has found a suitable candidate for the full-time position.
Harden will begin his responsibilities on Tuesday, January 8 and was present at last evening’s vote to approve his contract.