It has been a difficult couple of years for the Marco Island City Council, as they have attempted to fill the vacant position of city manager. That position was left open after a very divisive council election in November of 2016. That election saw Jared Grifoni, Howard Reed and Charlette Roman join with returning incumbent councilor Larry Honig to win seats on the dais. Three months later in February of 2017, City Manager Roger Hernstadt tendered his resignation to the new council.
An initial search by the Mercer Group would end with only one candidate standing and that candidate was rejected by a majority of the council. That rejection would lead to a temporary fracturing of the relationship between Mercer and the city. However, the relationship was eventually salvaged, and a second search would bring forth a list of four finalist in November 2017.
The finalists included Daniel Alfonso, who had served in various positions within the City of Miami, including City Manager, with a strong background in finance. David Fraser, who was City Manager of Boulder City, Nevada from 2013 to 2017. William Malinen who was City Manager of Branson, Missouri from 2013-2017. Lastly, Lee Niblock, the former manager of Alachua County, from November 2014 until September 2017.
Niblock received the final nod, and in early December 2017 he settled into the corner office at city hall. However, within ninety days of his tenure, a complaint of simple battery was brought forward by the Principal of the Marco Island Academy concerning unwanted sexual advances. That complaint was followed by a complaint in Gainesville, Florida by another women, and which mirrored the events here on Marco.
The charges here on Marco Island resulted in the council terminating Niblock’s contract for cause at their March 19, 2018 meeting.
Council floundered in their attempts to re-engage in the process to deal with the vacant manager’s position until late in the summer of 2018, when Vice Chairman Charlette Roman brought forth a plan to utilize the services of the Senior Advisor Program of the Florida City and County Management Association to undertake a search for an Interim City Manager. That process brought David Harden to the interim position. The Senior Managers then began a search for a permanent city manager for the community in January 2019.
At the April 1st meeting of the city council, Ken Parker of the Senior Advisor Program identified 10 names from a list of 60 candidates assembled from a nationwide search. It would be council’s responsibility to narrow that group down to five finalists.
In the order of votes received, the following candidates were chosen:
- Michael Bonfield from Creedmoor, North Carolina (7) votes;
- Steven Barwick from Aspen, Colorado (6) votes;
- Michael McNees from Grant, Florida (6) votes;
- Catherine Swanson from Coral Gables, Florida (4) votes;
- Craig Coffey from Flagler Beach, Florida (4) votes.
The city will now submit those names for background investigations, with the intention to come back in May for individual interviews and a final selection process.
More regarding the search and details on the five finalists will be found in the April 26 edition of the Coastal Breeze News and at www.coastalbreezenews.com.