By Mike Phillips
For several weeks after firing former City Manager Dale Martin, a majority of Fernandina Beach commissioners were at best lukewarm on the idea of hiring a professional search firm to find the city’s next manager. Instead, they appointed a citizen committee to assist with the search and tried to negotiate an “a la carte” deal with a search firm. The “a la carte” idea went nowhere.
Then the citizen committee held its organizational meeting Monday and sent the commission a clear message: Hire a good search firm and pony up for the firm’s full package. As chairman Tim Poynter said, the committee can’t do anything until the commission has hired professional help and – just as important – has let the selected firm and the citizen committee clearly understand what qualities, skills, experience and other assets the commission is looking for in this critical hire.
Tuesday evening, with almost no discussion, the commission voted 5/0 to authorize negotiations with a firm. And the commissioners said they will be prepared to sit down for interviews once a search deal has been signed and let the professionals know what they are looking for in the next city manager.
Citizens commenting on the issue said the city should be prepared to pay a competitive salary, and the Conserve Nassau group handed out a memo listing several skills and credentials needed in a good city manager, such as a history of successful city management, knowledge of a coastal environment, good communication and consensus-building skills and good financial skills. And quite a few more.
Which was another message: Many citizens will be paying close attention to the search, and they won’t be shy about making suggestions.