Friday, March 5, 2021

He’s Earned the Opportunity




Some of the best lessons learned in life are not those taught in the classroom, instead they are acquired as we walk down the path of life itself and experience all that it has to offer. This applies to our personal lives as well as our professional endeavors.

The number of academic achievements, letters after our names, or diplomas on our wall do not determine our abilities to excel in life itself. A person’s resume should be secondary to the experiences he or she may have had over the course of their lives. All too many times individuals “pump up” those resumes to present themselves as something they are not. I’ve found you have to look closer than what you find on a piece of paper and instead look into the eyes and the soul of the individual to really see who he or she is.

Politicians get elected in many cases due to the “perception” of who they are; that applies to the national, state and local offices they acquire due to the “quirkiness” of the election process itself and who they are perceived to be by the public. Sometimes that is driven by the amount of money one pours into his or her campaigns, which tend to create a sometimes false veneer that the public buys into, until that phony façade has been stripped away after time.

We here on Marco are in the midst of a hiring process for a new CEO for our community. We utilize a city manager/ council form of government to run our local affairs. The responsibilities for all parties are outlined under the City Charter, which serves as our bible regarding the obligations of both councilors and the city manager.

Council has the responsibility for choosing a city manager who will act as the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of our community. That individual will run the affairs of the city and implement the policies and procedures as dictated by the council of seven individuals elected by our residents.

The job of the manager involves a delicate balance of running the day to day operations of the city, while guiding council in its deliberations and balancing his or her perceptions of what a community feels is important to them. It will then be his/her responsibility to implement council initiated policies and work to balance those policies with the community’s perceptions of their needs, with the assets available to city staff. Not exactly an easy job, especially with constantly shifting political and economic climates.

As I mentioned earlier we are presently engaged in a search for this special individual. The person we are seeking will have to be part juggler, lion tamer, politician and magician, all at the same time. It’s a tough job, but we’ve been fortunate during the last 51 months to have had a young man who has carried out those responsibilities for 13 of those months.

Guillermo (Gil) Polanco has served under two separate councils. First being for five months during 2013 and 2014 while a pervious council sought a replacement for James Riviere who stepped aside after serving as replacement for Steven Thompson for 3½ years after Thompson stepped down. Then in February of 2017 Polanco stepped up again when council accepted Roger Hernstadt’s resignation, and continues to serve today in the role as CEO.

Polanco has a deep understanding of the financial picture of the city, having served as the city’s Chief Financial Officer for over five years now. He is a soft spoken and easily approachable professional who shares the respect of his colleagues whom he works with on a day to day basis.

He understands the meaning of the word “team” and neither seeks the limelight or headlines. He recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of those around him and relies on those with the skill sets to get the job done, as was the case during the city’s response to Hurricane Irma. He also has a strong belief in mentoring and supporting those members of his staff, without resorting to harsh words or criticism of those who may need guidance.

I would not misjudge his soft spoken demeanor for that of weakness. Instead I would recognize and applaud him for not overreacting to those that might not be able to harness the harsh words and criticism that can sometimes be witnessed in today’s political atmosphere, where it is often tolerated as the new norm and acceptable. Instead he displays professionalism and a certain calmness, which is often times missing in from the political theatre we’ve become accustomed to.

Is Gil Polanco perfect? Of course not, none of us are. Has he reached his potential yet? I would hope not. In my opinion he is made up of the qualities which we would all want to see in a leader of our community. Qualities that I would hope might continue to mature and develop, as they do in all good professionals. Qualities such as honesty, integrity and the desire to continue to make this a better place for all to live in.

I would hope council might consider putting away the search for a new manager and reward a professional within our own ranks with a justified elevation into the job he is presently doing on a permanent basis. Let’s move on with the next chapter and recognize the potential within our ranks and concentrate on the challenges ahead of us with a bold vision for the future of our community.

Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at

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