By Mike Lednovich
The citizens committee tasked with advising the City Commission on finding the next city manager was resolute Monday evening with its very first recommendation: spend the money necessary to find and hire the best candidate.
“At this point in time, the city needs to look back and say now it’s time for us to make an investment in getting the right folks out there looking for the right person to come (to be city manager),” said committee member Steve Simmons, a longtime local businessman. “We need to pay what it’s going to take (someone) to manage this city the way it needs to be managed. You have to pay the price to get these folks. It’s an investment and we all will get a major return on that investment. We only get one shot at this.”
Meeting for the first time after a series of missteps by the city commission on formulating the process for finding the right person to be city manager, the citizens committee was unified in saying that little could be accomplished by the group until an executive search firm had been hired and the commission had told that firm what kind of person they were looking for to manage Fernandina Beach’s complex government.
“They (the city commission) have to pick a search firm. They’ve got to get the ball rolling,” said committee chairman Tim Poynter, a former city commissioner. “And, then it’s the city commission’s job to define what they’re looking for. We need that information (before we can do anything).”
The city commission tonight is scheduled to vote whether it wants to hire a search firm, and if so, which search firm will be awarded the contract.
The question is back on the commission agenda as a result of five search firms rejecting the city commission’s decision two weeks ago to pick and choose what search firm services it wanted to pay for, rather than pay for the whole package.
“Since 1995 only two city managers have served more than four years, and both of them were found by a search firm,” said committee member Margaret Davis, a retired attorney. “We have heard why we need the full search firm package.”
The citizens committee was also in agreement that the city manager salary be increased by $20,000 – $40,000 annually. The final decision on the city manager salary will be up to the city commission.
“The city manager and the city commission is like a marriage. There will be good times and there will be bad times. The city commission will have to own that decision,” said Jim Hanson of the Florida City/County Management Association who is advising the citizens committee.
The citizens committee set its next meeting for May 15.