Transitions: Sarasota County, FL; Sussex County, DE; Rancho Mirage, CA and more

Sarasota County, Florida (population 379,448): New chief administrator Randall Reid promises less polish as he prepares to take the helm of Sarasota’s $857 million-a-year county government. On Jan. 23, Reid will become the key architect of the county’s recovery from a messy scandal that highlighted ethical lapses and favoritism in how the county awarded contracts to private vendors. The problems went largely undetected for years, but when they finally surfaced, they cost the former administrator his job. Rebuilding the public’s trust is job No. 1, and Reid says it will not get done with a public relations campaign. Reid, 57, says he intends to deal with problems openly, and that he expects a certain amount of messiness to seep into the twice-monthly meetings of the Board of County Commissioners. Read more at the Herald-Tribune.

Sussex County, Delaware (population 197,145): The New Year brings new leadership to Sussex County.  Today Todd Lawson takes over as the county administrator.  Former administrator David Baker announced his retirement last January, but held on to the position through the year as it took much longer for his successor to be named.  Then Lawson spent the rest of the year learning the ropes.  Lawson is now responsible for the day to day operations of the County government – and leads a workforce of about 500.  This week’s Sussex County Council meeting could bring some changes as well as the first order of business is the council’s reorganization. Read more at WGMD.com.

Rancho Mirage, California (population 17,218): A week after City Manager Patrick Pratt announced his retirement following 33 years with the city, the City Council offered his job Thursday to the city’s director of community development. The City Council held a special closed session Thursday to discuss how to fill Pratt’s job and voted unanimously to offer the position to Randal Bynder, said City Attorney Steve Quintanilla. Pratt, 60, declined to give specific reasons for his retirement, which will take effect Feb. 3. The job is Bynder’s pending successful negotiation of a contract, which will be voted on in open session. Pratt’s current annual salary is $242,778. Mayor Dana Hobart said the council was already inclined to consider in-house candidates for the job after getting word of Pratt’s plans last week, but Thursday’s state Supreme Court decision allowing California to scrap the state’s redevelopment districts, including Rancho Mirage’s, created a new urgency. Randy Bynder graduated from UCLA with a master’s degree in architecture and urban planning on a Sunday in 1986, and started working as a planning technician in Rancho Mirage the next day. Read more at MyDesert.com.

Ionia, Michigan (population 11,394): After serving as interim Ionia County Administrator since June, Stephanie Hurlbut was appointed by the Ionia County Board of Commissioners as Ionia County Administrator. Commissioners approved a two-year contract and a definition of Hurlbut’s position. Hurlbut will be taking on the role after all commissioners approved the appointment. Her role will be as administrator and also to perform the duties of the finance officer, her previous position. She will be paid for five extra hours a week to perform the finance officer role. Read more at the Sentinel-Standard.

North Bend, Oregon (population 9,695): It’s expected to be a smooth transition when North Bend City Administrator Jan Willis’ tenure as City Administrator ends, and her replacement takes over the first of the New Year.  Terrence O’Connor moves over from his City Manager position at Coquille to replace Willis. Read more at Coos Bay North Bend Oregon News.

Transitions: Who’s in and who’s out this week

Tucson, Arizona (population 520,116): Less than a week after unanimously firing City Manager Mike Letcher following a series of management failures at City Hall, the council will discuss how to find his replacement. The majority of the council seems to favor a national search, but it’s unlikely it will be done before a new council is seated after the November elections.  Richard Miranda, the deputy manager who is now the acting manager, will likely be named the interim city manager on Tuesday. Mike Letcher, fired by the City Council last week, made $211,000 a year as city manager. He gets six months of pay and benefits as a severance, which is what his contract with the council called for. Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.

Tuesday night the Tucson city council began to pick up the pieces from the firing of the City Manager and move forward, launching a national search to replace Mike Letcher. In the meantime, interim City Manager Richard Miranda says the city won’t skip a beat. Only time will tell if it’s temporary, but for now, Richard Miranda is the man for the job. Council members unanimously passed a motion to begin the national search for Tucson’s next City Manager. It’s a process that will take some time. The cost of the search is estimated to be between 50 to 75 thousand dollars. Miranda is also eligible to apply for the position permanently.  And council members say no doubt he’ll be a qualified candidate.  As Mike Letcher’s successor, for now Miranda is focused on re-building trust. And the city says it plans to involve the community in the process as much as possible through things like community forums. The final decision will be made by the newly elected mayor and council after the November election. Read more and watch video at Fox11AZ.com.

Sarasota County, Florida (population 379,448): Environmentalists, community activists, business people and other concerned citizens found one thing they could agree on during a series of county forums last week — that their views had been discounted by former Sarasota County administrator Jim Ley. Nearly all those who attended a series of five public meetings last week to gather input on desired qualities in the next county administrator said they wanted a good listener and collaborator. The meetings, which drew over 100 attendees, will allow Atlanta-based The Mercer Group to develop a profile of the kind of county administrator the community wants. The new administrator will replace Ley, who resigned under fire in May after revelations of problems in purchasing practices. The process is expected to take a few more months. Other desired qualities that emerged were an interest in protecting the environment, strong ethics and the ability to be humble. Many also said they wanted someone who would allow the elected County Commission to make policy decisions. The use of a search firm to handle the search process is a departure from when Ley was hired in 1997. Then, the commission picked a selection committee to narrow the candidates, a decision that has since been criticized for not being open enough. Read more at the Herald Tribune.

Craven County, North Carolina (population 103,505): Craven County Assistant County Manager Jack Veit will step up to the county’s top administrative post Oct. 1. Craven County Board of Commissioners promoted Veit last Tuesday to fill the post being vacated by County Manager Harold Blizzard, who is retiring after 18 years in the job. It comes with a $130,000 salary. Veit, 30, came to Craven County in May 2010 at a salary of $95,944 after five years in Carteret as administrative aide, then assistant county manager. He was picked by Blizzard from 75 candidates to fill the job of retired Craven assistant county manger Ray Moser. Chairman Steve Tyson announced the hiring after an executive session at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting with Veit outside and nervously awaiting the decision. It brought a wide Veit smile and applause from board members and staff. Commissioners posted the open position internally after Blizzard announced his intent to retire. They did not advertise the position for outside applicants, a procedure Tyson said was outlined as legal and appropriate by the county attorney. Veit is from Pfafftown near Winston-Salem and the son of retired teachers Jack Veit Jr. Kathryn Veit.  Veit graduated from North Forsyth High School and Appalachian State University. At Appalachian, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science and municipal government and a master’s degree in local government administration. Viet was sort of born into local government, to a father who taught the subject and with a grandmother who was born in the Stokes County Jail when her father was sheriff. Veit and his wife Meghann bought a house in Craven County in April. Read more at the New Bern Sun Journal.

Temecula, California (population of 100,097): Bob Johnson will get a base salary of $215,000 — a raise of roughly $21,000 — when he takes over as Temecula’s city manager on Jan. 1 under the terms of a four-year contract approved Tuesday by the City Council. Johnson makes $194,153 as one of Temecula’s two assistant city managers. His current post will not be filled once he succeeds Shawn Nelson, a move that will save the city $282,000. Johnson, 66, will earn less than did Nelson, 51, who is one of the highest-paid city managers in California. Nelson, who has been Temecula’s top administrator since 1998, took home $336,288 in 2009. A city staff report included in the council agenda found that Johnson’s salary is in the lower third of city managers in California with populations of 100,000. Johnson brings more than three decades of service in the public sector to his new job. He was Riverside County’s planning director and worked in Irvine and Pima County, Ariz., before coming to Temecula in 2006. Johnson’s contract starts Jan. 1 and ends Dec. 31, 2015. His salary won’t be less than 110 percent of the city’s next-highest-paid employee and he will not receive cost-of-living increases, according to a city staff report. Besides his base pay, Johnson will be entitled to: $11,000 a year in deferred compensation toward a retirement plan. 60 additional hours of annual leave. Johnson already has accrued 640 hours of leave. A benefits package worth $11,280 in fiscal year 2011-12. An automobile allowance worth $6,000 a year. He can get mileage reimbursement for travel on city business outside of Temecula and a city vehicle if needed for large groups, inclement weather or unusual road conditions. If fired, Johnson would get a severance package equal to six months’ salary or the time is left on the contract, whichever is less. He would not get severance if he resigns, is charged with or convicted of a felony or if he engages in “corrupt or willful misconduct in office,” the city staff report read. Nelson in June announced his plan to retire at the end of the year. The council picked Johnson in late July. Since then, the council has met behind closed doors to discuss Johnson’s contract. Read more at the Press-Enterprise.

Cleveland County, North Carolina (population 98,078): After more than three decades serving Cleveland County, drawing in thousands of jobs along with billions of dollars in investment, County Manager David Dear announced Tuesday his plans to retire at year’s end. Dear has served as county manager since 2004, bringing in industry despite the recession and leading economic development efforts. Dear wrote that he will still be active in the community, making himself available both before and after retirement to help the county government through the challenges that lie ahead. Board of Commissioners Chairman Johnny Hutchins said Dear will be missed, but Hutchins did not wish to comment on who will take Dear’s place. Eddie Bailes is Cleveland County’s assistant manager. Hutchins said commissioners will meet on Sept. 14 to discuss the course of action following Dear’s retirement. Read more at the Shelby Star.

Yakima, Washington (population 91,196): Don Cooper, Yakima’s first new manager in 32 years, was sworn in September 6 and his first official comment from his seat at the City Council table had to do with the budget. It is a sign of things to come for the new administrator at City Hall. Cooper was hired in part for his budget expertise, and next year’s budget will give him plenty of opportunity to demonstrate those skills. The city faces a projected shortfall of more than $1 million, due largely to rising expenses and flat revenue. Cooper succeeds Dick Zais, who retired in July after a 38-year tenure with the city. Cooper has said he expects to spend the first few weeks getting acquainted with city staffers and the community’s major players. But it won’t be too long before he dives into major projects, including hiring a new police chief, he said. Cooper, 61, said he is looking toward a year-end deadline to hire a new chief. He said he wants to advertise for applicants soon to start that process. Cooper, who will earn $155,000 as city manager, arrived in Yakima late the prior week. He spent that weekend driving around the different neighborhoods and visited the Yakima Farmers Market on Sunday. Read more at the Yakima Herald.

Luna County, New Mexico (population 25,095): Luna County commissioners have instructed staff to begin arranging interviews with eight county manager’s position applicants, but the board is not releasing the names until the interviewees confirm they’re still interested. A review committee, with five members from the general public, has submitted four recommendations and one alternate to the commission. Commissioners have stressed the review panel recommendations are just that, recommendations. The Deming Headlight (http://bit.ly/nwfZBQ ) reports the commission is not bound in any way to follow the advice of the review committee. Commissioners have also insisted there is no planned deadline to fill the position left by the July firing of former manager John Sutherland Jr. From the Republic.

Elk River, Minnesota (population 22,974): The Elk River City Council has voted to offer the city administrator job to Kevin Lahner. The unanimous decision came Thursday night, Sept. 8, after the council interviewed Lahner and three other finalists, Calvin Portner, David Minke and James Hurm. Sharon Klumpp, a consultant with Springsted Inc. who is helping the city with the administrator search, will negotiate with Lahner on salary and other details and report back. If Lahner declines the position, the council agreed Portner would be the next choice. He is the administrative services director for the city of Plymouth, Minn.
Lahner is a native of Eau Claire, Wis. He has been city administrator in Burlington, Wis. since 2008. Prior to that he was the interim city manager and assistant city manager in Keller, Texas. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master of public administration. Lahner was one of 71 applicants for the position, which opened up when former City Administrator Lori Johnson resigned in June. Read at the Elk River Star News.

Lake Wales, Florida (population 14,225): The Lake Wales City Commission has passed on former Lady Lake town manager James Coleman and former town planner Judith Jankosky for the job of Lake Wales city manager, opting instead to hire another recognizable face in the area. Commissioners have given the job to Therese “Terry” Leary, who has been a city manager in Crystal River and Lake Park, near West Palm Beach. She is also known to Lady Lake because she was a candidate last year for the town manager’s job there. Leary, of Hilton Head, S.C., was one of three top finalists for the Lake Wales job, along with a man from Auburndale and a man from Palestine, Texas. Commissioners said they were going to interview the top three candidates, and if none rose to the top, they would move on the next five candidates, including Coleman and Jankosky. But both the Auburndale and Texas candidates bowed out, and the commission hired Leary. Read more at the Daily Commercial.

Salem, Missouri (population 4,854): Clayton Lucas said the opportunity was just too good to pass up. Lucas, who has served as Lindsay California’s (population 11,768) full-time assistant city manager for the past four months, said he recently accepted an offer to become the city manager of Salem, a small town in southern Missouri about 120 miles away from St. Louis. A lot of Lucas’ family live in the area, and he said southern Missouri has always been one of his and his wife’s favorite vacation spots. Lucas said he applied for the job in early July and accepted an offer made by Salem’s Board of Alderman, equivalent to a city council, on Aug. 29. He said the Board of Alderman unanimously voted Tuesday night to accept his contract. Lucas was made aware of the job opening by his brother, Jerry, who lives in Tulsa, Okla. Lucas said the current state of Lindsay, where a citizens’ effort to recall all five members of the City Council is underway and city staffers have regularly been criticized for what they earn, did not factor into his decision to leave. Lucas is the fifth person in 10 months to pack his bags and leave City Hall. Former City Manager Scot Townsend resigned in early November, former Finance Director Kenny Walker took a medical retirement in mid-November, former Councilwoman Suzi Picaso stepped down from the dais in mid-December and former Assistant City Manager Kindon Meik resigned in early March. Lucas started with the City of Lindsay in 2000 as a planning intern. He was appointed as the assistant city planner in early 2001. The following year, he took a job with the City of Farmersville as a management analyst. In 2003, he was selected to take part in a federal police program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice. After completing the program, he served for four years as a police officer in St. George, Utah. Over the course of his last year in St. George, he was a city planner and a reserve officer. Lucas returned to Lindsay in 2007 as a management analyst. He became a reserve officer with the city’s Department of Public Safety in October 2007. Three months later, he went to work full time with the department before being promoted to sergeant in July 2008. He became the interim assistant city manager in November and was appointed in May to head up the position permanently. Lucas is currently working on obtaining a master’s degree in public administration from Penn State University’s online World Campus. Lucas received bachelor’s degrees in geography and urban planning from California State University, Fresno. Read more at Recorder Online.

Palmer, Massachusetts (population 10,468): The Town Council, in a majority vote at its meeting last Thursday night, chose Donald I. Jacobs of Holden as Palmer’s next town manager. Jacobs has worked as a consultant for the last 12 years, but previously was the town manager in Plymouth and Southbridge. Charles T. Blanchard has been serving as interim town manager for the past two months; prior to that, former executive assistant Patricia A. Kennedy assumed the acting role. She took over after Matthew S. Streeter was fired by the council in June 2010. His predecessor, Richard Fitzgerald, was terminated by the council in April 2008. Read more on MassLive.com.

Ocean City, Maryland (population 10,289) In closed-door meetings last Thursday night and this morning, a slim majority of the Ocean City Council voted to ask City Manager Dennis Dare to resign by 5 p.m. last Friday and to fire him if he does not. Councilman Jim Hall said the council voted 4-3 Thursday afternoon to ask Dare to resign his position, which he’s held since 1990. Hall said it was a tough decision, but the council majority wants Dare replaced because “it’s time to take the town in a new direction.” Ocean City’s code gives the council sole authority to hire and fire city managers, the town attorney, its clerk and its auditor; the mayor has a vote in the hiring of police chiefs, but not city managers. In exchange for his resignation, the council majority said they would pay Dare through Dec. 31 of this year, and honor any of his benefits, including a full 30-year retirement package and health pension. Dare is operating on a yearly contract with the town which was renewed automatically in April. Jim Hall said they would honor it “and pay accordingly” in the event of a firing. The contract would allow Dare to be paid his salary in full for 120 days after the contract’s termination. Read more at DelmarvaNow.com.

Orland, California (population 7,291): Orland may be interviewing someone later this month to serve as an interim-city manager, buying time to find a permanent replacement for Paul Poczobut Jr. Poczobut, who one city source said was ill, did not attend the meeting, prompting Councilman Bruce Roundy to suggest he be placed on leave until his contract expires Nov. 1. New City Attorney Greg Einhorn is to discuss leave options with Poczobut in the near future, officials said. However, the city does not want to pay an extensive severance package to Poczobut by releasing him before the contract ends. The council voted not to renew Poczobut’s contract following a closed session performance review on Aug. 15. In the meantime, Vice Mayor Wade Elliott has spoken to a retired city administrator from Winters who worked for Orland temporarily about 10 years ago. Elliott said Gail Wingard would be willing to talk with the council about running the city for a short period — even on a part-time basis. Council members believe it could take up to five months to find suitable candidates. Councilman Charles Gee said there are at least two retired city managers in Chico who could be contacted for an interim appointment as well. Also the interim manager would not have to be at City Hall every day, Gee said. Elliott said Wingard might also be willing to be a consultant to provide advice to Crook on issues. He plans to talk with Wingard further and set up a closed session meeting with the council sometime in September. Read more at the Orland Press Register.

Kittery, Maine (population 5,359): The Town Council was expected Monday to appoint a former Topsham town manager as its interim town manager. Town Manager Jon Carter is leaving in two weeks to take his old job as Wells town manager. The council, which has met in executive session to discuss proposals by professional recruiting firms, chose to enter into an agreement with Eaton Peabody Consulting Group of Augusta. According to the agreement the council is expected to sign today, former Topsham Town Manager James Ashe will be appointed on an interim basis upon Carter’s departure. Ashe, who served as superintendent of Brunswick schools before heading to Topsham, worked as town manager for three years, leaving last December. He will work for the town up to three days a week and will attend council meetings. He will be paid a per-diem rate of $400. Don Gerrish, retired town manager of Brunswick, will work on the search for a new town manager. Both Gerrish and Ashe are independent contractors working for Eaton Peabody. The contract between Eaton Peabody and the town for recruitment services is for $4,500, plus expenses. Gerrish said Friday that a search “typically takes two to 2½ months.” Eaton Peabody will advertise in publications of the International City Managers Association and the Maine Municipal Association. It will review all the applications and cull out the most qualified candidates for the town. Once a candidate has been chosen, it may be necessary for that person to give up to a month’s notice, he said. Read more at Seacoast Online.
High Springs, Florida (population 3,863): A woman with multiple degrees, including a bachelor’s in Growth Management, a minor in Economics and a doctorate in Law, is the sole remaining finalist for the city manager position in High Springs. The City Commission had chosen five candidates, then narrowed the list to two. But after one of the finalists accepted a job elsewhere, the list had narrowed to just one person – Judith Jankosky, the current assistant city administrator for Arcadia, a city similar in population size to High Springs. Jankosky will be interviewed by the High Springs City Commission at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, followed by a meet-and-greet where residents can talk with Jankosky personally. High Springs’ elected leaders had made a point that they wanted to find a city manager candidate with extensive knowledge in how to attract businesses and a solid background in crafting a city budget. In Jankosky’s 58-page presentation, she emphasized her experience in those areas and said she excelled at getting diverse groups of people to work together for a common goal. In Arcadia, she not only is the assistant city administrator but also is the airport director and the Economic Development director. Read more at the North Florida Herald.Carmel-by-the-Sea, California (population 3,722): Santa Barbara County’s assistant county administrator was named city administrator of Carmel by-the-Sea on Tuesday by unanimous vote of the City Council. Jason Stilwell was the council’s “unanimous first choice” for the job, said Councilman Ken Talmadge. Stilwell will assume his duties Sept. 28. The employment agreement approved by the council includes a $175,000 annual salary, $350 monthly auto allowance, a $550 monthly contribution to a tax-deferred compensation account for a total of $185,800 a year, as well as health, dental, vision and life insurance and retirement benefits. Stilwell, whose duties included serving as Santa Barbara County’s budget director and financial officer, was previously director of the county’s parks department and project manager in the county executive’s office. He is an adjunct professor of public policy at CSU Northridge’s Tseng College. Prior to working in Santa Barbara County, Stilwell was assistant town manager of Superior, Colo. and a management intern in Thornton, Colo. He holds a doctorate from the University of Colorado at Denver, a master’s degree in public administration from San Jose State University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The council approved $15,000 in relocation expenses for Stilwell’s move from Santa Barbara to Carmel. Carmel had been without a permanent city administrator since Rich Guillen retired at the end of March. On April 19, John Goss, former city manager in Alameda and Chula Vista, was named interim city administrator. Read the story in the Monterey County Herald.

Cottonwood Shores, Texas (population 1,210): The City Council’s decision last week to let go of City Administrator Jerrial Wafer after only three months on the job ends a tumultuous term marked by repeated disagreements with Mayor Janelle Long, officials said. Long on Sept. 2 said those disputes often “got ugly.” Four council members voted in favor of terminating Long’s employment and one abstained during a meeting Sept. 1. A new city administrator will have to be appointed, but there are no candidates for now, Long said. Though Wafer was not available for comment, minutes from earlier council meetings show he complained that Long was hostile to him. He voiced many of his own misgivings about the mayor at an Aug. 18 council meeting. According to the minutes, Wafer discussed seven sections of complaints, which included statements about inexperienced personnel and a computer system in which “nothing works.” In a harbinger of the clash that would lead to his suspension, Wafer claimed Long “creates a hostile work environment” and “needs to be more of a cheerleader rather than a critic.” Wafer’s dismissal actually began to take shape Aug. 26 when the mayor told him she was placing Wafer on paid administrative leave. He remained in that capacity until Sept. 1, when the council permanently dismissed Wafer. Long said she suspended Wafer because of disputes over management styles and because he lacked the dedication and know-how to fulfill the duties of a city administrator. Wafer’s dismissal is the latest in a number of departures from the city in less than a year, including City Secretary Cindy Schwertner in June, former Mayor Bentley Martin before his term expired and a police chief late last fall. Read more at the River Cities Daily Tribune.