City Realizes It Must Jump To It on Manager Search

By Mike Lednovich

Tuesday was quite a day for the city.

First, Interim City Manager Charlie George underwent an extensive medical procedure and began what will be a lengthy recovery period.

Then, Operations Director Jeremiah Glisson was officially tasked by the Fernandina Beach City Commission with supplanting George as interim city manager as George recovers.

And finally, the city commission was confronted with the realization that it was time to search for a permanent city manager to run the city.

“We are praying for Mr. George to get back to us as soon as possible, he does such great work,” said Mayor Bradley Bean in beginning the city commission discussion regarding Glisson’s appointment and a city manager search.

For the next hour, commissioners sparred over what steps should be taken to find and hire a city manager to run the city.

All agreed that the first step was for the city to contact executive search firm Colin Baenziger & Associates for advice on how to proceed and possible timelines for hiring a new city manager. Colin Baenziger & Associates conducted the original search that led to hiring last September of Ty Ross as city manager. Ross resigned seven weeks later and as a result, Colin Baenziger & Associates told the city it would conduct a new search at no cost.

In responding to the motion to appoint Glisson as interim city manager, Commissioner James Antun said he would support the appointment but wanted commissioners to consider former Chatham County, Georgia Manager Lee Smith for the job or going back to Colin Baenziger for a new search.

“This is something we could not have foreseen and we need to act now,” Antun said.

Commissioner Chip Ross also advocated hiring Smith, who was among the five finalists for the city manager position last September.

“I believe we should begin a negotiation with him (Lee Smith) if he is willing to come and be our city manager,” Ross said. “He’s already been through this (search firm) process. We had two strong candidates, one of them is still available and it’s not unusual for cities to go to their number two candidate when the first one doesn’t work out.”

But Commissioner Darron Ayscue saw the city’s options differently.

“I don’t agree with going back to Lee Smith. On its surface, it doesn’t feel right that there would be enough transparency, be enough citizen input in the process if we went in right now with Lee Smith,” Ayscue said. “Let’s call the search firm, don’t put any time frame on it, when it’s going to happen, when it’s not going to happen. I don’t think that decision needs to be made tonight. It’s going to take time for (city) staff to reach out to them (Colin Baenziger) and figure out what can and can’t be done and bring that back to us.”

Bean weighed in and declared he wanted to see “the top five names.”

“I’d like to put some urgency under their (Colin Baenziger) sails. It’s been nine months,” Bean said. “It could be Lee Smith, he very likely might be in those top five names. We need to see who we’re picking from.”

Ross immediately pushed back.

“I totally support Jeremiah Glisson as interim city manager for a short period of time. We’re asking him to do two jobs,” Ross said. “I think time is of the essence. We’ve already gone through the vetting process. We had a city committee, we had meetings. They’ve been heavily vetted. We’ve been through this. You’re asking to repeat all this.”

Ayscue responded that the first step should be contacting Colin Baenziger for advice on how to proceed.

“I’m not looking at time frames. Let’s get them on the phone and ask them what are our options?” Ayscue said. “We’ll know our options in two weeks. If we need to speed it up or slow it down or pick one of the candidates that was still left, at least we’ll have options.”

Several public speakers advocated that the city commission delay hiring a city manager until after the Nov. 5 city commission election when there are three of the five city commission seats on the ballot.

“What if you hire someone and there are three new people up here (on the commission) that don’t like that person. Then you’re back to square one,” said former Mayor Robin Lentz. “I would urge you to delay it. Maybe to have your short term list (of candidates) ready after the election.”

Taina Christner suggested commissioners consider hiring a temporary city manager on a consulting basis.

“We have to do something immediately and you can only do that through a temporary contract,” she said.

Commissioners eventually agreed to have Human Resources Director Denise Matson contact Colin Baenziger and ask about an expedited timeline and other considerations.

Bean instructed City Attorney Tammi Bach to schedule a special meeting around June 20 for commissioners to discuss their options once Colin Baenziger responds to the city’s inquiries.

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MyFernandina
Trusted Member
MyFernandina(@myfernandina)
7 days ago

The new commission must decide whom to hire–not a bunch of lame ducks.

Ross and Antun continue to be joined-at-the-hip. Odd pairing but true.
Will Pointer and Antun continue the linkage? Is that good for the city?
Bothe are tax and spenders, so watch out.

Albert Pike
Trusted Member
Albert Pike(@albert-pike)
7 days ago

Does anyone else find it interesting that the Doctor Duo seemed lockstep in hiring Mr. Lee Smith and had already reached out to and ascertained that he was still available (9 months after the original search no less..)? I wonder how it would have been received if Bean, Sturges, or Ayscue already had a hand picked person for the position like Antun and Ross did? Certainly there isn’t a Sunshine violation here.

mick
Member
mick(@mick)
6 days ago
Reply to  Albert Pike

It’s pretty much a common-sense act and filling the position is LONG overdue. Why the pervasive stalling? Someone competent and sober should have been doing this full-time job MONTHS ago.

Steve Vogel
Active Member
Steve Vogel(@stevedec)
7 days ago

The circus is still in town.

mick
Member
mick(@mick)
6 days ago
Reply to  Steve Vogel

Vote out clowns. It’s the only way they will pack up and depart.

WaynesBit
Noble Member
WaynesBit(@waynesbit)
6 days ago

I am sure glad you guys ran Dale Martin out of town. Brilliant move. Glad I live in Yulee.

mick
Member
mick(@mick)
6 days ago
Reply to  WaynesBit

Living in Yulee isn’t protection against bad governance. It impacts everyone by ripple effect and definitely right over the bridge.

RDeem
Active Member
RDeem(@rdeem)
6 days ago

Ross and Antun are not joined at the hip, they are the two Commissioner that take a thoughtful approach to their Commissioner responsibilities and consider the views of their constituents. The circus has been Bean, Sturgis and Ayscue flip flopping like a fish on the beach. First they didn’t think they needed a search committee, they suggested a rapid process which turned out to be months as most serious executive searches do. Ayscue thought people were too quick to judge the guy they picked who crashed his bike in a drunken stupor a few weeks into the job. Bean, Sturgis and Ayscue created this city management mess and repeatedly demonstrate their incompetence in conducting city business. Vote them out next elections.

Douglas M
Noble Member
Douglas M(@douglasm)
6 days ago
Reply to  RDeem

I agree…..Antun seems to make up his own mind. Sometimes he votes the same as Chip and sometimes he doesn’t. However, I cannot recall a single vote where Bean, Sturgis and Ayscue voted differently……so if someone wants to talk “sunshine violation” the voting record shows where to look.

Ayscue is not up for election to his seat, but he is a candidate for Mayor along with Antun. Talk is cheap…..actions (or lack thereof) and voting records are the things to focus on!

MyFernandina
Trusted Member
MyFernandina(@myfernandina)
6 days ago
Reply to  RDeem

They are–conjoined and more agreed than not—I expected more independent thought from Antun.
The decision to select a “vetted” candidate after the Ty affair should have happened then, but they
all agreed to wait and work with the agency to explore next steps–so why is that incompetent?

Concerned-Citizen
Trusted Member
Concerned-Citizen(@concerned-citizen)
5 days ago
Reply to  MyFernandina

Antun campaigned on cleaning up the building department. He has been a disappointment. He has taken no action and has fallen in line with Ross. It has well documented that the corruption continues. Even the Yulee Times reports it as the two news outlets on the island ignore it. It has recently been discovered that the city commissioner wannabe is demolishing his latest business venture without a permit.

Betsie Huben
Famed Member
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
6 days ago

The doctors are not wrong. By my count and, including Mr. Martin, the city has now had 5 different folks in the position since the termination of Mr. Martin back in February of 2023. This includes our police chief who certainly had plenty on his plate in the first place as did Mr. George and now Mr. Glisson. Why would we not reach out to those who made the finalist list previously? Especially if they are still interested! This is no way to run a business, especially the business of our city. We are 15 months and counting with no continuity. Wait until after elections and start over? How long will that take? Unacceptable!

MyFernandina
Trusted Member
MyFernandina(@myfernandina)
6 days ago
Reply to  Betsie Huben

The commission decided to wait, not “reach out” after the Ty affair, and to consult with the agency on next steps.
Isn’t that acceptable? Is the city suffering?
Note that neither Ross or Antun suggested taking immediate action when Ty resigned.

mick
Member
mick(@mick)
6 days ago

What is accomplished by stalling the hire of a city manager? The commission dumped this collateral duty on a series of individuals working in another city job or those who reluctantly agreed under pressure after retiring. There is a list of already vetted individuals; offer the job to one of them – it’s only logical and makes no sense to fight the process. What is the real agenda behind opposing filling this position with someone who is competent and not a drunkard?

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