Search Committee Agrees on One Thing: No Looking Back

By Mike Lednovich

The chairman of the Citizens City Manager Search Committee sparked a conversation of “what do we want in a city manager” by suggesting the city reconsider the termination of the ex-city manager.

“I’d like to make a motion that we ask the city commission to reconsider hiring back Dale Martin,” Chairman Tim Poynter said at Monday’s CCMSC meeting. “I keep hearing from numerous people that we want the expertise of Dale Martin we just don’t want Dale Martin. I think it would save the city an awful lot of money to reinstate this person. So I’m asking for a vote to ask the city commission to reinstate him.”

After the four other committee members weighed in, a vote never took place.

“Why don’t we dissect that and what they liked best that he (Dale Martin) was doing and include that in the next person we hire in addition to the other qualities he (the next city manager) might have,” said Steve Simmons. “We have an opportunity to move forward and build on the qualities that Dale had.”

The committee was updated by executive search firm Colin Baenzinger and Associates, who said all five city commissioners had been interviewed about the qualifications needed for the next city manager, as well as, the challenges the city faces. The five members of the search committee are scheduled to be interviewed this week.

Simmons later said he favored hiring a candidate without city manager experience.

“I’m not interested in hiring a city manager, I’m interested in hiring someone to manage the city,” Simmons said. “There are a lot of good folks who have managed big corporations where they dealt with a lot of people, a lot of money … we’ve got to be productive in what we’re doing.”

Jackie Miller said, “We should learn from the past. Maybe there’s someone out there that’s a great leader, a great manager.”

Revisiting the termination of Martin was not an option for Wayne Peterson.

“I don’t want to go back to Dale Martin. That’s over and done with,” Peterson said. “Let’s move this process forward.”

Finding a new city manager will not be an easy task according to Margaret Davis, who said Atlantic Beach had just one finalist for its vacant city manager position.

“We’re asking Colin Baenzinger to come back with 10 to 12 finalists. Atlantic Beach had just one. This might be more of a challenge than we realize,” she said. “Job qualifications are probably very much what they were looking for in 2015. The issues in the city really haven’t changed.”

Colin Baenzinger will produce a candidate brochure once all of the preliminary interviews are completed and compiled. The hiring process is about a week behind the scheduled timeline provided by the search firm.

The search committee’s next meeting will be June 1.

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WWelks (@guest_69588)
6 months ago

The citizen committee refers to the future city manager as “he.” Women need not apply?

The Casual Observer
The Casual Observer (@guest_69593)
6 months ago
Reply to  WWelks

Seriously? Is there not enough controversy in this matter? I have no doubt a professional search organization will bring ALL qualified candidates to the committee. They would be in violation of numerous federal and state laws if they did not.

Richard Cain
Richard Cain(@richardcain)
6 months ago

Or about “they” and some of the other pronouns being thrown around? Non-binary people need not apply? I’m joking. But sadly this is where we are in the U.S. today.

Dennis Jay
Dennis Jay(@dennisjay)
6 months ago

Simmons’ comments are like saying we don’t need a surgeon to remove an appendix, just someone who cuts real well, like a really good carpenter.

Sheila Cocchi
Sheila Cocchi(@srcocchi)
6 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Jay

It’s the message from his Commissioner. They already have identified their candidate and he doesn’t have City Manager experience. The experience he does have is from a tiny town.

Steve Vogel
Steve Vogel(@stevedec)
6 months ago

The circus is back in town and the clowns are in attendance is

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_69601)
6 months ago

This committee may have good intentions but, except for Mr. Poynter, they seem to be in over their heads. All this wasted time and they still have little idea what type of person they should be looking for.

Since the Commissioners do the actual hiring and firing, maybe the committee should go back to square one and ask the Commissioners for their requirements. After receiving specifics from the Commissioners, they can discuss their own ideas and modify the requirements if desired.

Sheila Cocchi
Sheila Cocchi(@srcocchi)
6 months ago
Reply to  John Goshco

Asked. And unanswered…twice now.

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_69620)
6 months ago
Reply to  Sheila Cocchi

My words didn’t follow my thoughts. By “going back to square one” I meant that the committee should press (yet again) the Commissioners for a basic list of requirements.

To date, the Commissioners haven’t clearly expressed what they didn’t like (and couldn’t manage/fix) with the previous City Manager. Do they even have a clue as to what technical abilities, experience and relationship skills a new CM should possess?

Dan Groth
Dan Groth(@c-daniel-grothgmail-com)
6 months ago

This is like saying “I like Jesus but I don’t like what he did to the money changers. Maybe God is available?”….the best quote = “This may be more of a challenge than we realize.”

6 months ago

Wow, there is so much to unpack here. First, I’m am pretty sure that Dale Martin would not consider coming back. Why would he after being treated so poorly.

Second, the suggestion to hire someone who has never had any city manager experience? After having worked as the right hand of a County Executive in a large urban county and as a regional director there, I can tell you that experience in running a local jurisdiction is absolutely needed. After the County Exec who I worked for retired, the next one hired a person who was supposedly a “visionary and capable leader” without any experience in running the day to day operations of a county government. It was simply put, a disaster. The County Council was hugely disappointed in his performance and within 18 months demanded he be fired, and he was.

Third, as mentioned, there are few good candidates for these positions, especially for a position in a small city such as Fernandina Beach. Also, any candidate that has come to learn about this opening has likely done his/her research and has decided that the disorganized, toxic politics of the Commission would be too much to deal with.

Last but not least, you notice I used his/her. They is fine also, But the point made by one of the commenters is spot on. Whether “he” was used throughout was done purposely or not, it does nod to the intent of the speaker.

This Commission needs to attend a “Politics for Dummies 101” course. Its members need to learn to engage brain before putting foot in mouth. They are not creating a professional, competitive and welcoming environment for good capable leadership and staff. They need to dial down the toxicity and prove that they can be rational, thinking adults.

Jim (@guest_69612)
6 months ago
Reply to  Joy

The last paragraph of Joy’s comments says it all.

Guest (@guest_69668)
6 months ago

Rehire the City Manager? Hahaha. Now that really would declare Fernandina Beach as a circus. From what I know there were more than 20 reasons he was fired. I can think of 20 more that should have been added to the list. Anybody who says he should be rehired needs to do their homework. He was a disaster for the city and evidently liked to push people around.