Two of the three candidates for the City of Marco Island Interim City Manager position came to town last week to be interviewed.
On Thursday evening two candidates participated in an open interview process before council and the general public.
Councilor Joe Batte is in New Jersey helping with a family issue, and was absent. Councilor Bob Brown used his time at the open meeting to ask questions, as he was tied up with medical appointments and unable to attend the Wednesday interview period.
Maria Menendez was the first to make a presentation. “I could best lead the city through the challenges it faces and have the management style which lends itself to meeting those. Just good basic public service is necessary,” said Menendez.
“We are only as good as our people,” continued Menendez in response to a question from Councilor Victor Rios. She was referring to the city staff and focused on her desires to improve customer service. Councilor Charlette Roman asked Menendez what from her history was a defining moment. “It was being in charge of the recovery effort from Hurricane Andrew. I learned the value of the people we work with. That was a very successful experience working on the recovery from Andrew,” said Menendez. “We all came together, in Coral Gables, and put aside our differences and removed turf as an issue,” said Menendez.
Councilor Larry Honig asked her to explain her management style. “I believe the team approach is the way to go, although I have to be willing to deal with differences,” said Menendez.
“Why would you be interested in taking on this challenge given our own varying differences?” asked Councilor Brown. “There is nothing easy about this,” said Brown.
Menendez took a moment and responded, “Your issues are found throughout other communities. Building trust is part of that,” said Menendez. It’s not a challenge that I haven’t been exposed to,” reflected Menendez.
“What experience have you had regarding dealing with other levels of government,” asked Councilor Jared Grifoni. “We need to enhance those relationships with projects of mutual interest with the county,” said Menendez. “We have had relationships with lobbyists who helped us with that interaction with the state and been successful,” concluded Menendez.
“I think my education as an engineer gave me a foundation for dealing with challenges and thinking through solutions,” said Menendez. “I’ve had to go up on ladders, while being hands on; I was younger then,” she joked.
Candidate James Hock also addressed council and answered their questions. Both Hock and Menendez have extensive background in municipal services.
“I’ll provide weekly reports to council as to activities within the city and project progress,” said Hock. He supported an even playing field as far as information flow, by equally sharing information between all councilors. “I won’t just give information to the Chairman, but to all councilors equally. We need to treat people as we want to be treated,” said Hock.
Both candidates shared a belief that Code Enforcement should be focused on “compliance,” and not fines.
Hock said he understood the need to deal effectively with environmental issues and stated his experience in emergency management.
Councilor Brown asked Hock why he was interested in looking at the challenges on an interim basis. Hock did not directly answer the question. Instead, Hock spoke of using his experience to create a better environment, and establishing a “strategic planning” session to allow council to work together better, and to create a better vision for the community.
Honig asked Hock how he would move forward without much Florida experience. “Most people I’ve worked with feel I come up to speed rather quickly,” said Hock. “I don’t bring problems to council, but instead bring policy issues forward to solve those issues.”
Roman asked Hock the same question she did for Menendez; what was the defining moment in his career? Once again Hock did not respond, but said he missed the work after he retired a year ago.
Councilor Howard Reed asked Hock how he would bring forward a successful effort to create an atmosphere of acceptance within a community to spend additional funds within a budget.
“You can’t get people to increase spending for services, but instead for capital projects,” Hock responded.
Only three members of the public attended the open meeting and only one asked a very generic question. The third candidate, David Harden, will visit Marco Island this week. Harden will have individual meetings with councilors on Wednesday. The open meeting with council and the public will take place on Thursday, October 4 at 5:30 PM in council chambers. The public will have an opportunity to question Harden at the open meeting.
A successful candidate must receive a total of five votes. Should none of the candidates receive the requisite number of votes, the process will be moved forward until the first council meeting in November after the November 6 election.