Off and Running: The City Manager Search Process

By Mike Phillips

The citizen committee that is assisting the search for a new city manager spent more than an hour Thursday with search consultants Colin Baenziger & Associates, closely going over the first draft of a search brochure.

Two important takeaways from that meeting: One, this committee has its sleeves rolled up and will do some heavy lifting during the process. And two, the five members – under the leadership of chairman Tim Poynter – have quickly become a smooth-working team.

Here are the highlights:

The committee strengthened the brochure’s language about Fernandina Beach residents’ deep concern for their environment. They want to be sure applicants understand that Amelia Island is a major bird sanctuary and is surrounded by not just an ocean but also a delicate web of marshes and small waterways.

They put more emphasis on environmental treasures like Fort Clinch State Park and the Egans Creek Greenway.

They added language about the city’s tree canopy and its national reputation as a city of trees.

They stressed that, though it is a small town and wants to preserve its small-town feel, it also hosts more than a million visitors a year.

They made sure that any new manager should be able to deal with a marina, a golf course, an airport and — right next door to an international shipping port and two major wood-processing mills.

There was much discussion about what any city manager must uniquely manage: diverse operations ranging from police and emergency response, to roads and sidewalks, to fresh water supplies and sewers – along with more common management skills like finance, human resources and dealing successfully with a wide variety of people. They made it clear that the new city manager should already have become a highly experienced city manager.

Because this is a coastal city, they said an understanding of state and federal agencies that deal with coastal cities would be an important plus.

They said the search should focus on people prepared to have a long run here. No job-hoppers, please.

The consultants told them that the city shouldn’t be cheap. The high cost of housing here and the need for a strong city management background will call for a generous salary.

They will present the improved version of the brochure to the city commission for review at its June 6 meeting. The consultants will have two months to vet applicants and will present all suitable applicants to the committee by Aug. 7 — with 75-100 pages of information per applicant. The committee will weed that down to five finalists plus a backup. The city commission will then interview all finalists Aug. 24 and 25.

After that, negotiations. Beyond that, look for an additional schedule of events until Fernandina Beach has a new city manager — on the job and getting things done.

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Dennis Jay
Dennis Jay(@dennisjay)
10 months ago

Good for them! Sounds like a positive approach after a less than stellar effort by city commissioners.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
10 months ago

I am heartened to see the concern for our environment and conservation have entered the mainstream conversation. One glaring omission is the need for affordable housing, not that that is only the city manager’s responsibility, but the city manager could take major lead in that area.

Richard Timm
Richard Timm(@rtimm-ontheislandgmail-com)
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes


Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_70205)
10 months ago

Make sure candidates are aware of King’s Bay (and it’s national security mission), the main shipping channel we both share with the open ocean, and the Navy’s contribution to beach maintenance through ACOE dredging contracts.

Richard Timm
Richard Timm(@rtimm-ontheislandgmail-com)
10 months ago

Thank you for the refreshing positive tone.

Al MacDougall
Al MacDougall (@guest_70210)
10 months ago

Remember this is Smallville, not Jacksonville, where the Mayor’s salary is $230K.
Let’s keep some degree of proportion–like fiscal responsibility, community welfare and safety, and transparency (no hidden agendas)–all major failures of the last incumbent.

Gen (@guest_70212)
10 months ago

Delighted to see the issues of concern being addressed and the citizen committee moving forward with search consultants.
Hopefully our new city manager will not be subject to being hamstrung or fired by some of our city commissioners .
We are headed in the right direction!

Mary Maguire
Mary Maguire(@memaguireaol-com)
10 months ago

Did the committee overlook the Florida preference to hire a veteran? Add that – as required – and the committee is looking for Dale Martin.