City Manager List Is on the Table from Citizens Committee

By Mike Lednovich

The search for a new Fernandina Beach City Manager that began with 62 applications has been pared to a final four candidates after Monday’s meeting of the Citizens City Manager Search Committee.

The committee voted 5-0 to recommend Andy Butterfield, Lee Smith, Mark Rooney and Ty Ross as the four finalists to be interviewed by city commissioners, the next step in the process.

Butterfield has never been a city manager. He is the operations manager for the city of St. Pete Beach, Florida (population 8,700) since 2019. He is a former Deputy Joint Base Commander in the U.S. Navy.

Smith boasts the most extensive experience, having been county administrator for Chatham County, Georgia (population 296,000) for eight years. Prior to that, Smith was Wayne County Manager, North Carolina (population 124,000) for 13 years.

Ross has been the city manager of Loudon, Tennessee (population 6,700) since 2017.

Rooney recently served as the village administrator for Round Beach Lake, Illinois (population 27,000).

However, there are several factors that could impact who city commissioners will ultimately consider for the job that has been vacant since the termination of City Manager Dale Martin last February.

One is that Butterfield and Smith are among the finalists for the Manatee County Administrator’s job. The Manatee County Commission is scheduled to meet Tuesday to determine which of the five finalists they will select. If either Butterfield or Smith is selected, then only three names from the Citizens Committee would be under consideration.

Second, the city commission is not bound to restrict the interview process to the four candidates nominated by the committee. The city commission is free to consider any of the applicants for the city manager position. The commission could also decide to continue the search process in order to recruit other potential candidates. And, the city commission could decide to offer the position to Interim City Manager Charlie George.

All of this follows executive search firm Colin Baenziger and Associates’ submission of nine candidates from the pool of applicants for the Citizens Committee to consider. That fell to seven candidates when Kathleen Gunn and Bill Sturgeon withdrew.

The Citizens Committee took 25 minutes to narrow the list to four.

Committee Chairman Tim Poynter began by polling committee members on their selections.

Butterfield and Ross were on four of the members’ lists. Smith was on three and there was a tie between Dave Molgaard, Tony Hammond and Rooney with two mentions each.

Committee member Margaret Davis supported Rooney primarily because of his experience in a coastal town in Rhode Island.

“One of the places (he managed) was a beach resort in Rhode Island. It was an island and he was working with a lot of the issues we have,” Davis said. “He’s got the experience. He was there during storms and he was there with a lot of the problems that we deal with. He has done some work in bond ratings and he has come up with creative solutions to problems that are similar to the ones that we face. The cities he’s been manager of are larger then we are.”

The other committee members agreed to put him on the finalist list.

Since there was consensus on the other three, they were not discussed.

One last possible nominee was discussed, and Poynter suggested that Interim City Manager George might be considered.

That suggestion was met with opposition by Davis and committee members Jackie Miller and Wayne Peterson.

“I don’t think I can personally recommend someone who after all the other candidates have gone through such extensive background checking and the entire packet put together and then to have us consider someone at the last minute and say ‘we like this guy let’s put him in.’  It doesn’t seem fair to all the other applicants,” Miller said.

Poynter’s last decision was to sunset (disband) the committee.

Davis said the committee might want to stay together in the event that unforeseen circumstances impacted the list of candidates and the commission sought additional advice.

“They (commissioners) could just do their job,” Poynter said. “We’ve done what we’ve been asked to do. If they do not come up with a city manager to their liking, it’s on them.”

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Betsie Huben
Noble Member
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
1 month ago

Why would the interim manager not make the list? He absolutely has been vetted. It was done when he came to fill his post as Assistant City Manager. He has continued to be vetted via his annual reviews. It was completely odd and unexplained that he was not given the nod to fill the interim position when Martin was fired. Strange as that all was, he continues to be readily observable as he fills as Interim Manager. Mr. George has working relationships with the commissioners and all the rest of the city’s staff. He will not require time to “get up to speed”. The argument that putting him on the list is not fair to the other applicants is absurd. This is about being fair to the city’s taxpayers who are looking for the best person for the job. Mr. George should absolutely be on the list!

Douglas M
Noble Member
Douglas M(@douglasm)
1 month ago
Reply to  Betsie Huben

Did Charlie apply?

Steve Vogel
Steve Vogel(@stevedec)
1 month ago
Reply to  Douglas M

Smart man if he didn’t.

Bill Fold
Noble Member
Bill Fold(@bill-fold)
1 month ago
Reply to  Betsie Huben

How is considering Mr.George being fair to the city’s taxpayers when the city has already spent thousands of dollars of the taxpayer’s money on searching for a city manager? With your idea of just giving the job to Mr George because he wouldn’t need to “get up to speed” the city could have saved the taxpayers a lot of money by just giving old Charlie the job to begin with. With your wisdom you should run for mayor, or hell President.