City Manager Search Group Launched — With Surprise Advisors

By Mike Phillips

In a Fernandina Beach City Commission meeting made up primarily of routine 5-0 votes, there were three standouts in Tuesday evening’s meeting:

  • Some impressive new landscaping around a spiffed-up but old-fashioned city entry sign.
  • Heart-felt salutes to former Commissioner Ron Sapp, whose contributions were many, but whose hard work got a once-controversial and now much-loved trail created.
  • And the formal launch of the citizen city manager search committee, along with a surprise addition of two advisors.

First, the city manager search committee: Five members, each nominated by one commissioner, were formally approved and charged with recommending candidates to the city commission, recommending search and hiring procedures to the oommission, and providing any other functions or advices the commission asks for.

They are Wayne Peterson, appointed by Commissioner Ayscue.

Tim Poynter, appointed by Commissioner Antun.

Margaret Davis, appointed by Commissioner Ross.

Steve Simmons, appointed by Vice Mayor Sturges.

Jackie Miller, appointed by Mayor Bean.

In discussion, the commission thought the committee’s first action after organizing would be to establish the criteria by which applicants should be judged.

They will have assistance from the city’s Human Resources staff, with HR Director Denise Matson serving as their staff liaison.

The surprise came when commissioner Sturges revealed that he had encountered two “experienced gentlemen,” Richard Sala and Jim Hanson, now retired, who had long experience in municipal management in various Florida cities and had offered to advise the committee on vetting applicants. That was wound into the original resolution as a friendly amendment.

Sturges also said he had met someone with extensive experience in background checks but couldn’t remember the man’s name. So that potential advisor was not part of the resolution, which passed 5-0.

All meetings of the committee will be at City Hall, open to the public and subject to the state’s Sunshine Laws.

There was a brief conversation about whether the city should bring in a professional recruiting firm. Without a vote on the matter, opinions appeared to be leaning 3 yes and 2 no. But that was yesterday. Some commissioners have not yet formed firm opinions on the matter.

The praises of Ron Sapp were part of a resolution to name the Egans Creek Greenway “Ron Sapp Egans Creek Greenway.” This 5-0 vote was a necessary technicality. But plans are afoot, it was announced, for a major naming ceremony and an all citizens-invited event thanking former Commissioner Sapp for his many contributions to the community.

And, after a good bit of back and forth over recent weeks, Main Street Executive Director Lisa Finkelstein — and the city entry task force chair — presented an impressive set of entry ideas, including flagpoles and landscaping that includes adding several mature live-oak canopy trees. And she offered two choices for the entry sign: a sophisticated, completely new design, and a complete spiff-up of the old sign that Fernandinans have known for many years. The commissioners approved the landscaping and voted for the old sign: cleaned up, repainted, repaired, and the old style lettering rendered in a vinyl material that stands out.

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6 months ago

Nothing like one Commissioner having put 3 people on the committee.

anonymous (@guest_67800)
6 months ago
Reply to  Sheila

Another exercise in amateur hour. A professional search firm is hired to eliminate bias, instead we have created more. Who vetted these two advisors? Where are their resumes?

6 months ago

Credit to Lisa Finklestein and Main Street team for helping spearhead this project. The rehabilitation of the City gateway is long over due. Look forward to this project getting underway here soon!

Diana Herman
Diana Herman (@guest_67805)
6 months ago

Having residents appointed my commissioners is thoroughly unprofessional. It’s like stacking the court with people who have the same agendas, and also personal ones as well. Awful and shameful. We see through all of it.

Peggy Bulger
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
6 months ago

Without a professional search firm we have chaos and more of the same cronyism. This is totally depressing

Steve Vogel
Steve Vogel(@stevedec)
6 months ago

With actions like that, they’ll get what they deserve.

John Findlay
John Findlay(@jfindlay)
6 months ago

I remain concerned about cronyism rather than objectivity in the search. One could argue that the deck has been stacked by allowing one commissioner to have three voices on the search committee.

DAVE LOTT(@dave-l)
6 months ago

Vice Mayor Sturges leads the charge to get rid of the City Manager and now takes the lead of identifying the next City Manager with three folks of his choosing, but then the other four commissioners went along with it. Not involving an objective, experienced recruiter is likely a bad mistake.
Good the see that common sense prevailed and the old sign will remain with a needed facelift.