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Lake City News

City Manager Search: Tonight the Public Get Its First Look at the Candidates and the Headhunter

Photo of hand coming out of the sea with caption: Lake City is looking for a city manager, tonight a desperate city council weighs in
Image by Nikko Macaspac via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – Drama continues in Lake City tonight, this time with the continuing saga of finding a City Manager. Five months ago, in July of this year, the City Council began looking for a new City Manager to replace the outgoing Joe Helfenberger. Tonight the four members of the City Council will be looking at thirty-six candidates.

Background

On February 15, 2021, the City's long-time HR Director, Michele Greene, resigned. Since then, the City has been in a tailspin, becoming a point of interest for anyone looking to see a city devolving into chaos.

In the past year, Lake City has defined chaos. Its City Manager was ousted; it went through two Assistant City Managers (that position is vacant).

The City’s Public Works Department is in chaos (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is investigating).

There is no HR Director. It appears a candidate was hired and then may have thought better of it and didn’t show up to work.

The Interim City Manager was forced out, which is another hot City mess that will be ending up in Court.

In a indication of the way the City does its business, an Interim City Manager was hired without an application or an interview and didn’t show up at the Council meeting the day he was hired. He did show up the next day.

A City Councilman resigned. The Council appointed a replacement according to the City Charter. The City violated the Sunshine law with that appointment, and the City did a do-over, appointed another person to fill the seat, and then refused to allow her to be seated. That is also in Court.

The City’s long-time Police Chief resigned.

The City Director of Growth Management resigned.

Monumentally bad decisions in the City Utility Division have Columbia County taking over water and wastewater service next to the City state of the art water plant.

The City Council is looking for a City Manager.

Filling the Vacant Position of City Manager

Five months ago, on July 15, 2021, the City Council knew it needed to search for a City Manager.

Through a circuitous route, violating its purchasing policy and the advice of its certified Purchasing Director, the City did not make a formal request for proposals and instead picked a headhunter on the fly.

See: Replacing the City Manager: Pt II - Councilman Greene Wants a Headhunter; City Attorney Predicts Fields “Likely to be Next City Manager

That headhunter was Renee Narloch & Associates.

Polling the City Council Members

Unknown to the public is what the City Council members were looking for in a City Manager. After Ms. Narloch was retained, City Attorney Koberlein announced at a Council meeting that Ms. Narloch would be polling the board, i.e., calling them on the phone to inquire about their preferences.

Neither the Mayor nor the three other Councilmen thought or recommended that this discussion be held in the public eye.

Image of candidates with one in a magnifying glassOn November 15, your reporter requested of both the City and Ms. Narloch the applications and resumes of the candidates.

According to City Clerk Audrey Sikes, Ms. Narloch delivered the records to the City on December 2. The next day the Clerk's Office provided them.

No applications were provided, and it appears that none were filled out.

Your reporter asked why there weren’t any applications. Clerk Sikes said, “We didn’t receive any.”

While the brochure for the City Manager search produced by Ms. Narloch states, the position is open until filled, Ms. Narloch has delisted the position on the Narloch website.

Ms. Narloch provided Cover letters and resumes.

Late last week, Ms. Narloch provided the City Council with who it rated as its four finalists and provided the resumes and cover letters to the City, which provided them to the City Council and the public.

It is not clear if the Council has the rest of the resumes.

The Applicants

Ms. Narloch provided thirty-six cover letters and resumes. It is not clear if any others were received and rejected.

As of yesterday, December 15, it appears that the City has no completed applications.

Tonight, in another 12th-hour special process, the City Council will meet with Ms. Narloch, at which time she may explain what she did and how she rated the candidates.

The public may also find out what its elected City Council thought was important in hiring a City Manager.

Epilogue: Next-Steps?

Five months ago, the City Council knew it was looking for a City Manager. It has ignored its purchasing policy and certified purchasing director. The City is paying a headhunter somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 to provide 36 candidates, and suggest four.

After five months, it has yet to discuss its next-steps.

The show begins at 5 pm in City Hall and will be broadcast live on the internet. 

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