Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City

Last Man Left Standing: Helfenberger Stars at the "Meet & Greet" the City Manager Candidate

LAKE CITY, FL – Yesterday evening in City Hall, Joe Helfenberger was the "Last Man Left Standing" in the race to fill the City Manager position, vacated when Wendell Johnson turned in his resignation earlier this year and Danielle Judd, who had finished in a dead heat with Mr. Helfenberger, withdrew.

Attending along with the members of the City Council, were most of this year's council candidates, Dennille Decker of the Chamber and members of her staff, department heads of the City and a few City residents and Police Chief Gilmore and Deputy Chief Butler.

Less than a handful of regular City residents appeared at the "Meet & Greet", which was mainly attended by City staff and Chamber of Commerce members.

Your reporter asked Mr. Helfenberger, "How do you find the people of Lake City, so far?

Mr. Helfenberger answered, "I like the people. They are very friendly."

He added, "I like the downtown and the narrow streets."

There has been talk on the street that the City finances were not all they were cracked up to before City Manager Johnson retired.

Your reporter asked, "Have you reviewed the City finances?"

Mr. Helfenberger answered, "I looked at them."

Public Works Director and renowned Pit Master Thomas Henry makes a point with Mr. Helfenberger.

Your reporter followed up, "Anyone can read last year's budget or the audit. Do you plan to go over the finances with the finance director before you sign a contract?"

Mr. Helfenberger responded, "You get as much information ahead of time as you can."

Your reporter asked, "Have you thought about what kind of contract you would like and do you have one prepared?"

Mr. Helfenberger answered," I haven't been approved yet."

Your reporter followed up, "Will you take the job if they offer it?"

Mr. Helfenberger answered, "I'll take it if they offer it. Then you figure out the terms and you go forward."

Mr. Helfenberger's wife was also in attendance. She was dragged away, with a big smile, by the City Clerk before your reporter could ask her any questions.

Your reporter asked Mr. Helfenberger if he had any children. He thought a moment, "There are 5. Thirty to twenty two. Boy. Girl. Girl. The twins."

City department heads came to chat with Mr. Helfenberger.

CareerSource Florida Crown's Director of Operations Anna Mendoza chats with Mr. Helfenberger.

The Director of Operations of CareerSource Florida Crown, Anna Mendoza, came by as an emissary for Florida Crown.

No one from the County side of the street dropped by.

Your reporter asked, "I am sure you have heard about the icy relations between the City and the County."

Mr. Helfenberger responded, "To make progress and move forward, we have to create a good working relationship."

City Manager Friday

Your reporter asked Mr. Helfenberger if he would be willing to establish one morning or day of the week where residents could just come in and sit down with the City Manager, without an appointment, and discuss with him what was on their minds.

Mr. Helfenberger said he thought that was a great idea; had done it in the past; and would certainly be favorable to having "City Manager Friday" in Lake City.


Today at 1 pm the City Council meets to ask any further questions and decide if they want Mr. Helfenberger to sit down and negotiate a contract with the City.

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