Since Sunday evening, when candidates and their spouses filtered into the Marco Island Yacht Club, the energy which filled the room was overwhelmingly positive. This after a two-and-a-half-year journey appeared to be concluding, as Marco Island City Councilors would begin the tedious process of interviewing five finalists for the long vacant position of permanent city manager.
Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz began the meeting on Tuesday evening by thanking Councilor Charlette Roman for bringing forward the concept of utilizing the Senior Advisors Group from the Florida City and County Management Association.
Brechnitz also praised Ken Parker of the Senior Advisors Group for his team’s work on bringing forward what Brechnitz described as, “an excellent field of candidates.”
The team first assisted in the task of finding a temporary manager to relieve Gil Polanco from doing dual duties as both the city’s Financial Director and that of Interim City Manager during the last two and a half years.
They then moved forward in early 2019 to begin the arduous task of finding the right person for the job on a permanent basis. They reduced a stack of sixty applicants to five, while reviewing their credentials and conducting background checks on each before bringing them forward for three days of intense interviews and introductions to the community.
Council members spent the last two days interviewing candidates, which included Steve Barwick from Aspen, Colorado, where he served as City Manager; Mike Bonfield, from Creedmore, North Carolina, where he served as City Manager; Craig Coffey of Flagler County, Florida, where he served as County Manager; Mike McNees of Melbourne, Florida, where he served as City Manager; and Cathy Swanson of Coral Gables, Florida, where she served as City Manager.
Unfortunately, councilors and the community have gone down this path before. The first failed search left the council deeply divided and the community suspicious regarding the process.
The second try resulted in a further embarrassment to the community, as council’s choice was charged with first degree battery for unwanted advances against a local female school principal, within only three months of taking the position.
Fast forward to May 7, 2019, and we were once again reviewing candidates, meeting their spouses and asking hard questions as to whether or not these individuals would be a good fit for the community.
It should have been no surprise to those that follow local government that Mike McNees came into the process with the necessary credentials for the job. His long experience working for Collier County, beginning in 1984 and ending 17 years later in 2001, provided him with a keen insight to Marco Island and the surrounding area, and that was not lost on those that interviewed him.
McNees’ experience in all aspects of providing governmental services within Florida was one of his major strengths with councilors. He had served in Collier County rising to the position of Deputy County Manager, in Sarasota as its City Manager, and most recently in Melbourne, Florida as its City Manager.
The task now lies with Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz and City Attorney Alan Gabriel to work out the details of a contract with McNees, with the intent to have that contract finalized so as to be presented at the May 20 city council meeting for approval.
The Marco Island City Council will convene on May 20, 2019 at 5:30 PM in chambers at 51 Bald Eagle Drive, for their regular meeting.