“This is like coming home for me. My family is extremely excited regarding the opportunities that lay ahead for us.”
~ Michael McNees
When you read this article, Michael McNees will have wrapped up his first 60 days as Marco Island’s newly-appointed city manager. He has actually spent a little more time than that, as he attended a number of council workshops and meetings prior to officially taking over the reins from David Harden, who has served as the Interim City Manager since early in January of this year. Harden will actually continue through the end of September when the 2019-2020 budget is finalized.
McNees comes to the job with an advantage that many of the other applicants didn’t have when they applied. He had a unique understanding of not only the Marco community, but that of Collier County, as he was employed by Collier County and rose through the ranks to hold the position of Chief Operating Officer/Assistant County Manager over his 17 years being employed there.
McNees would also be the point man to assist in the transition of Marco Island becoming an independent municipality when it incorporated as such in the late ‘90s. He left county employment when he was recruited as the Sarasota City Manager in 2001.
“This is like coming home for me. My family is extremely excited regarding the opportunities that lay ahead for us,” commented McNees.
The McNees’ style, if one were to describe it, revolves around a quiet and reflective manner. However, at a recent council meeting during open citizen comments, he would quickly respond to a call for the replacement of a city staff member by a member of the community. “This is not the venue for criticizing city staff for the past issues. I would be happy to speak to any citizen in my office. I’m in all day, every day, and I don’t think this is appropriate. If it comes up again, I’ll respond in the same way,” said McNees.
In an interview in his office, McNees would explain that he subscribes to a simple principal. “Your windshield in your car is much larger than your review mirror. It’s simple, you need to concentrate your efforts on where you’re going and not on the road behind you, if you want to make progress. I think that is what our shareholders want to see, they want to see progress,” commented McNees.
Since his arrival on the job there has been little that McNees sees as a surprise. “All communities wrestle with many of the same issues and Marco is really not much different. We need to identify the challenges and put a plan in place to deal with them,” said McNees.
In the next 90 to 120 days McNees will work on several of those challenges identified after conversations with staff, councilors and citizens. He has also had the advantage of listening to the comments regarding the city’s efforts to pull together a concise and focused Strategic Plan for the next 5, 10 and 15 years for the community.
However, he has been focused on at least four major issues, which he has identified as priorities until the end of the year.
Dealing with the concerns regarding the permitting and inspection issues, which staff has already recognized and is working on with his office.
Getting the new police chief onboard, who he expresses a great deal of confidence in, due to her many professional accomplishments over her career. “The community support for the department is huge and we are in a really good place to springboard towards a better future with high standards,” said McNees.
Understanding the “water quality issue” better is also front and center on his agenda.
Building in the objectives of the Strategic Plan, which has been recently developed by the community, is also important to him, although he doesn’t feel there are any surprises in those items that have been identified.
McNees has also voiced his desires to make sure someone will be focused on overseeing the major construction project regarding the build-out of Veterans Community Park that will begin sometime in 2020. “We will need someone that will be the city’s advocate during that project to ensure the taxpayer is protected in this process. That is very important to me,” said McNees.
In addition to the park project, the city will be developing plans for the replacement of the fire station at the intersection of Bald Eagle and San Marco Road , a review of the city’s Land Development Code and bringing online the new connections for providing potable water over to Marco Shores, as well as pumping wastewater back across the river for treatment at the North Marco Utility Plant and the decommissioning of the outdated Marco Shores Treatment facility and the possible sale of that land.
Those are only a few of the projects that will be under the watchful eye of the new manager, as he heads his next year of service here on the island.