Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 8, 2015 7:32 p.m.

City Manager's office from the outside looking in
City Manager’s office from the outside looking in

During a half hour special meeting this evening, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) voted 3-2 to interview the following five candidates for the position of City Manager: Michael Bonfield (3 votes); Debra Figueroa (3 votes); Dale Martin (5 votes); Calvin Peck (4 votes); and Mark Kutney (1 vote). Both Vice Mayor Johnny Miller and Commissioner Pat Gass voted against the motion because it included Mark Kutney, who had only received a vote from Commissioner Robin Lentz.

Three members of the public—Andy Curtin, Lynn Williams and Roy Smith — spoke before the commissioners made their individual votes to narrow the group of semi-finalists to those who would be invited for interviews. All three to one extent or another disparaged the caliber of the candidates in the group of semi-finalists.

Curtin said, “If those are the best, I don’t think I’d like to see the rest.” He recounted current city manager Joe Gerrity’s accomplishments, urging commissioners to reconsider allowing him to resign.

Williams agreed with Curtin, but allowed that there were some good candidates in the group under consideration. He suggested that the FBCC go slowly, since Gerrity would be willing to stay on, to give the new commissioners an opportunity to make the selection.

Roy Smith, a candidate for city commission, agreed with previous speakers and said that he would like to have input into the decision, if he were to be elected. He also agreed that there were some good candidates in the group.

Colin Baenziger took issue with the negative characterization of the recommended finalists, saying that there were some outstanding managers in the group.

Gass quipped, “If these candidates are outstanding, then Joe Gerrity is stellar.”

Miller and Gass made an additional attempt to retain Joe Gerrity, whom they believed was better qualified than the entire applicant pool. That motion failed on a 2-3 vote, with the other three commissioners opposing.

Miller also suggested that the process of interviewing candidates and hiring a new manager be postponed so that commissioners elected this fall might be part of the decision. While Gass seemed to support this, the other three commissioners believed that it was best to continue the process as it has been articulated to both the public and the recruitment firm of Baenziger and Associates over the past 90 days.

Before the addition of Kutney’s name, commissioners seemed in agreement about interviewing the top 4 candidates. However, Lentz argued for another look at Kutney, citing his experience with an airport and a marina. Both Mayor Boner and Commissioner Tim Poynter agreed to include his name in the top group in deference to Lentz’ advocacy.

Before Lentz spoke up, the question before the FBCC seemed to be whether to broaden the interview group to include two candidates who had received 2 votes each: Matthew Delk and Jim Pascale. However, no one made a motion to include them. This appeared to be grounds enough for both Miller and Gass not to support the final motion, which included Lentz’ picking Kutney from those candidates who received fewer votes.

Poynter argued that the sitting commissioners are the best qualified to select a new city manager because they better understand the challenges and demands of the job than brand new commissioners would.

Baenziger added that if after interviewing the five finalists the FBCC do not see a fit with the city’s needs, his firm would start over at no additional cost. He stressed that it is important to find a candidate that the FBCC feels will be a good fit for the city.

Interviews will take place on September 22, 2015. During the day candidates will meet individually with commissioners. Public interviews by the entire commission are scheduled for 6-9 p.m. that evening.

Before the interviews, there will be an opportunity for the public to meet the candidates during an informal meet-and-greet at the city golf course from 6-8 p.m. the previous evening (September 21).
Resumes of the candidates are available on the city’s website.

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.


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Chris French
Chris French (@guest_44067)
7 years ago

Looks like we have some wonderful candidates to choose from. It’s exciting to see we are moving in a positive direction to getting things on track. Hopefully we can move forward without delay in choosing a new CM so that we can focus our time and energy on the aspects of our community that make this such a fantastic place to call home.

Mary (@guest_44071)
7 years ago

How did he get the giant palm tree in there?!

Mrs. D. Hunter
Mrs. D. Hunter (@guest_44079)
7 years ago
Reply to  Mary

I don’t know, but he better not think he’s gonna take it with him.


Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_44074)
7 years ago

It’s about capability and practical ability to integrate – and long term commitment to this community. Consider old and new?

Sheila Cocchi
Sheila Cocchi (@guest_44075)
7 years ago

The current Commission would have been the panel to choose a candidate months ago if they’d demanded immediate resignation. Please be mindful when you vote, come November.

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