The Bunnell City Commission wants applications for its next city manager to be all in within 20 days, and the position filled within 60 to 90 days. The commission held a special meeting this morning to set the course for its next manager’s hiring, a meeting precipitated by the firing of Dan Davis last week. Davis had been at the helm for less than two and a half years.
The commission is turning away from internal applicants. The minimum job requirements the commission set for the job today—including a required master’s degree in business, public administration or related fields–appear to exclude all potential internal applicants except for Police Chief Tom Foster, who is now the acting city manager. Two department heads who applied for the city manager’s job in previous searches—Perry Mitrano, the utilities and solid waste director, and Stella Gurnee, the finance director—would both not have the qualifications to apply. Foster has a master’s in public administration.
But he is intent on returning to his job as police chief. Foster said this morning he’ll do what’s necessary to manage the city in the interim. “If it’s 60 days, I don’t have a problem stepping up and doing whatever we need to do for the city of Bunnell. Your call,” he told city commissioners, but he also set a limit to the days he’s prepared to do it: “No more than 90.”
“I don’t see it going longer than 60 days,” Mayor Catherine Robinson said.
The degree requirement is a significant change for the city.
“If we don’t find an acceptable candidate with a master’s degree, then we go down,” said Commissioner John Sowell, the newest of the commissioners, who is intent on making his mark on the hiring process. “But I think we’re aiming low if we just ask for a bachelor’s degree. The city needs a competent leader with experience. They need someone who has organizational experience, because running a city is not the same as just managing a small business or something like that. There’s a lot to know and a lot to manager.” He stressed the leadership component of the job. “There’s no reason we can’t find someone with a master’s degree that has the leadership capability and a leadership-demonstrated experience already.”
The commission’s ad for a city manager will be issued later this afternoon and will be disseminated through the usual local government association outlets that list. It sets the salary range between $75,000 and $80,000, and 10 years of government experience “preferred” (up from seven years).
The position will be advertised through the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Cities and County Management Association, and the Florida Association of Counties and the city’s website starting this afternoon. The job opening closes on May 20 (a Sunday).
The commission discussed two other matters this morning: the salaries of Foster and Matt Mortimer, the corporal and now acting police chief. The commission agreed to give both 5 percent raise for the duration of their interim assignments. For Mortimer—by far the longest-serving police officer in Bunnell: he was hired in 2005—that’ll bump his salary up to $54,467. Foster’s current salary is $64,178. It will increase by just under $2,000. Both salaries will be reduced to their former levels once the assignment is completed.
Commissioners were concerned about police coverage in the city, now that Foster will be off the streets and without police or arresting powers, thus reducing the ranks of uniformed officers in the city to nine—two of whom are in training. “It will impact us somewhat,” Foster said, but 24-hour police coverage of the city will continue, as does routine cooperation with sheriff’s deputies.
The city commission is going through its third manager-hiring exercise in four years. But the commission’s 45-minute discussion this morning was easily the smoothest, least angst-ridden of the three, with no disagreements between the commissioners, including Mayor Catherine Robinson.
Robinson noted getting contacted by Caryn Miller, a former interim city manager in Flagler Beach and that city’s community development director until 2011. She resigned the city manager’s job in Millersville, Tenn., two weeks ago.
Mitrano was one of just five people in the audience at the early-morning meeting. Ex-Commissioner Bonita Robinson and Mortimer were two others, and a utility employee a third. Mitrano had had difficult relations with Davis. He said he was happier coming to work this morning. “Very much so,” Mitrano said. “I think they’re making great strides. This was a great meeting today.”