Sunday, September 27, 2020

Wanted: Professional City Manager

City Manager Jim Riviere.Photo by Frank Steiger

City Manager Jim Riviere.Photo by Frank Steiger

The race is on to find a professional city manager for Marco Island.

On the heels of City Manager Jim Riviere’s retirement announcement last month, the Marco Island City Council voted 6-1 to issue an RFQ for head hunting firms interested in helping the city find his replacement. Councilman Chuck Keister was alone in his dissent.

“I don’t agree we need to hire a search firm,” Keister told City Council. “I don’t think we need to spend the money for a search firm.”

After nearly an hour of debate, though, council ordered city staff to issue the RFQ and coordinate the responses in time for a special workshop before the June 3rd City Council meeting. The goals of the RFQ process and the workshop are to define what the city council is looking for in its new city manager and to contract with a consulting firm to find that person.

“Perhaps council needs to look closer at what our expectations of a city manager should be, better define our expectations,” Councilman Larry Sacher suggested during the city council’s discussion of the issue.

Councilman Larry Magel agreed: “The question is what do you want and how much is it going to cost. Until you talk to these people who do this for a living, you don’t know what your frame is.”

The decision to use a consulting firm rose from the council’s discussion of its role in the process of choosing a new city manager. The city’s past experience with city manager searches and Florida’s Sunshine Law were central to this discussion. While the Sunshine Law allows Floridians “open access” to government proceedings and public records, it also would allow public access to resumes submitted to the city council for the city manager position.

The reason for the concern: If candidates’ resumes were part of the public record, some very qualified — and currently employed — candidates might not bother to apply for fear of losing their jobs.

Keister conceded, “When we did this process before, (the resumes) were considered public record. Unfortunately, it limits the number of applicants.”

For Sacher, Magel and the rest of the council, the use of a search firm would solve this issue, allowing the firm to whittle through the piles of initial applications and pass along only the top candidates into the public record. As an added bonus, the search firm will serve as a sounding board for council’s wish list of criterion for its new city manager, which includes water utility experience.

“I want to know what someone who does this for a living is looking for,” Councilman Larry Honig said. “I want to get their insight. What do they look for?”

Council Chairman Joe Batte agreed that a search firm is important to this process, but he does not want the importance of council direction overshadowed. “This is critical,” he noted. “I want to know what my fellow councilors are thinking and feeling. We need professionals to get involved, but I don’t want to be lectured to by the professional without knowing what everyone is thinking and feeling. We are the ones that are going to live with this person.”

Keister voiced a final word of caution on the topic: “We don’t want someone looking for a stepping stone. We want someone who wants to make Marco Island his home — someone who is looking for stability in his life and for Marco Island; someone that has the experience that fits our needs

“I don’t like the idea because an outside consultant decides these are the best people,” he added. “I feel like we are abdicating our responsibility if we hire a consultant.”

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