Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City

Lake City, City Manager Search: "Off to a Bad Start," Glenel Bowden

LAKE CITY, FL – Last night in City Hall, the topic of the city manager search was not included in the evening's agenda, even though it was scheduled during the last City Council meeting. City Manager Johnson's explanation, given as the meeting was winding down, seemed to fall short [as spoken], "I apologize that under departmental administration I do have an add-on for discussion: that the -- Michele Greene HR Director is gonna' (unintelligible) on the city manager advertisement."

Human Resource (HR) Director Michele Greene distributed the City's latest City Manager Position description. The six page document was not distributed before the meeting and the Council members only had time to give it a cursory glance.

City Manager Position as presented

City Manager Johnson is the City person responsible for the agenda preparation. While the task of distribution usually goes to the City Clerk's Office, there is generally only a minimal delay from the time they receive something to the time it is distributed.

Ms. Greene told the Council, "What I presented before you is an advertisement based on our workshop that we had at our previous meeting." Ms. Greene explained that the Council "provided some feedback."

Ms. Greene asked the Council members to review the document. She explained there is a 45 day window for those interested in the position to submit resumes.

HR Directory Michele Greene explains the hiring process last night.

Ms. Green said the 45 day window could be changed and she requested input on changing it.

Ms. Green told the Council, "With the input I had, some of the questions that you would like to ask are more appropriate for interviews than including in an advertisement."

Ms. Greene continued, "The nice thing about this is we do have a deadline so that gives you a time frame. If we go with this advertisement, the next thing I would recommend is discussing how you would want to evaluate the resumes once they are received."

Earlier today, Ms. Greene told the Observer that if the Council members want to change the application schedule, it would have to be done at an open meeting to not be in violation of the state's Sunshine Law, as she is not allowed to poll board members.

The Suggestions

Only two of the five council members weighed in before last night's meeting.

Councilwoman Melinda Moses called her suggestions in to Ms. Greene.

Ms. Moses was interested in hiring someone with communications skills and that could establish a relationship with the community. Ms. Moses also wanted someone with government experience and someone with "proven diplomacy."

Councilman Eugene Jefferson was looking for a candidate to have knowledge of the FAA and airport management experience; Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) experience; stormwater experience; Community Development Block Grant experience; and experience with unions and labor relations.

While Councilman Hill did not get his suggestions in last week, he told your reporter he was prepared, "But I had to work." At that time Mr. Hill shared that he was going to suggest the following: "I want the City Manager to establish 'Walk in Friday.' That is on Friday's, between 9 am and 1 pm, the City manager be available in his office to sit down with residents, no appointment needed, and talk to them."

Mayor Witt and Councilman Ward did not make contributions.

After last night's meeting Ms. Moses said that she would not be opposed to someone from the business community, "with the right experience," applying for the city manager position.

Mr. Hill told your reporter, "I will be recommending that the City Manager position be advertised in the NY Times. This is our chance to reach out to America and the wider business community."

Earlier today, Councilman Jefferson said he was disappointed that the City Manager Position was not on the agenda for discussion. "I don't know what happened with that," he said.

Mr. Jefferson continued, "My preference would have been to have this work-shopped to discuss the application process."

Vanessa George, a candidate for Mr. Jefferson's city council seat, weighed in:

I think that the people are being left out of the loop and not being included in the conversation.

To have a real discussion, the public needs to be heard after the council members weigh in and before they vote.

Former Councilman Glenel Bowden

Glenel Bowden is also running for the seat of Councilman Jefferson.

Mr. Bowden said he was disappointed that the City Manager Position was not on the agenda, "If this would have been on the agenda, I would have been prepared to say something. As it was, I barely had time to glance over the City Manager Position handout after Ms. Greene handed the copies to the Council."

Mr. Bowden said the last minute appearance of the handout "made me suspicious of the process. This is not what I would call transparent."

Mr. Bowden said the search should "not be limited to Florida."

Finally, he was emphatic regarding City Manager Johnson's input in City Manager search, "The City Manager should have no future input in the process. It is inappropriate for him to be involved."


Later on in the morning, via email, Mr. Bowden shared his thoughts with the City Council and the City's mainstream media, the Lake City Reporter.

Mr. Bowden wrote, "The selection of the city manager is the city council responsibility and must not be influence[d] by the present manager in favor of [a] certain type of city manager. Equal opportunity is exemplified in the process, not the statement."

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