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Lake City News

Headhunter Takes Center Stage In City Manager Search. Councilman Hill: Only Council Member to Share His Requirements for City Manager

Renee Narloch appears at the City Council
Photo and graphic by the Columbia County Observer

LAKE CITY, FL – Wednesday evening, Florida headhunter Renee Narlock appeared like an apparition on the big screen in City Hall to guide the City Council in its search for a permanent City Manager. When she asked for questions about the candidates, the Council had none. Only Councilman Hill stood up when your reporter asked the Council members what ideas they shared with Ms. Narloch.

Background Who is Renee Narlock?

The firm S. Renee Narloch & Associates explains: “We are a premier public sector search firm specializing in senior level executive recruitment.”

S. Renee Narloch, CEO/President, has twenty-five plus years of experience in recruiting executives. Listening to her speak last night, she is knowledgeable about executive recruitment, well-spoken, and quick on her feet.

Ms. Narloch was transparent and did not seem to hide anything from the Council or the public, which she knew was watching.

The Conversation
Ms. Narloch Takes Over

Ms. Narloch told the Council: "We vetted them. We interviewed them. We went back to our original conversations…As you all know, we had conversations with each of you, each of the Council members -- What are you looking for in a city manager? What's important? What are the needs of the City? What do you think we need to be looking for? We went back to what we were told that you felt was important that we consider when we're interviewing candidates, recruiting candidates, and evaluating them. And from that, we came across a top layer of candidates."

Ms. Narlock said the candidates would be able to "address some of the challenges of the City that were articulated to us by Council and others, and then we pulled together our recommendations."

Ms. Narloch did not volunteer the Council member's challenges or the "others" who chipped in with recommendations.

Image of candidates with one in a magnifying glassOne of Ms. Narloch’s recommended candidates, Alan S. Braithwaite (see pg. 37 in the applications) who is in Florida, thought about Lake City over the weekend and withdrew his application.

Ms. Narloch said, “He took time over the weekend to give this more consideration…notified me late yesterday.”

Ms. Narloch opined about her candidates, “They’ve worked in a lot of places which is a good sign to me.”

All candidates are in the ICMA, the International City/County Management Association. Some people familiar with this group have called it the ICMA Mafia, a group that some think its primary purpose is to cover up the failures of its members.

Ms. Narlock said, “We’re still a long way from the goal post. There's some folks, Mike Williams [Interim Lake City Manager] being included, are hoping that we are getting closer, but we really need to plan for the next step, which would be for these folks to have a conversation with you -- for you to talk to them. You really don't know a person till you get a chance to talk to em’.”

Ms. Narloch asked the Council if it had any questions. Generally, this is a City Council that doesn’t ask questions, at least in public. There weren’t any questions.

Ms. Narloch said she would come up with suggested questions for the Council.

Ms. Narlock said she would not rank the candidates.

“Our Fourth Candidate Pulled Out"

Lake City Mayor Steve Witt reviews the leading resumes.
Mayor Witt reviews the leading resumes.

Ms. Narloch explained, “Our fourth candidate did pull out.”

Maybe she did rate the candidates. The candidate who pulled out was Alan Braithwaite. On the list of Ms. Narloch's chosen list, the City Council's list, Mr. Braithwaite, was second alphabetically.

Ms. Narloch continued, “If you want to backfill that slot, that's a conversation we could have here. I probably have a recommendation that I could make. It's up to you.

Ms. Narloch paused for input from the City Council.

Councilman Sampson said he wanted four candidates. “Maybe we could schedule a call for four?” he asked.

Mayor Witt agreed.

Ms. Narloch said she was wrestling with two candidates: Fred Vantresco (page 190) from Milan, Missouri, and Brian Kaufman (page 94). “You may not have a resume in front of you, but I do,” she said.

Ms. Narloch steered the Council toward Mr. Kauffman, “He did a good job for Madison County while he was there. He got bit by the bug. He really enjoys local government. He enjoys being the top facilitator and orchestrating everything.”

Mr. Narloch introduced Mr. Vantresco, “He was a good candidate, so we can give him consideration, but if we wanted someone closer to home…who had relationships…that is in the plus column for Mr. Kauffman.”

None of the Councilmen had the Kauffman or Vantresco resumes, and no one asked for them.

Ms. Narloch said, “Those were the two that I spoke to that came close to my recommendation group. I would consider them if you were to backfill this one position.

Councilman Sampson listens to Ms. Narloch.
Councilman Sampson listens to Ms. Narloch.

Mr. Sampson wasted no time, “I would like to see Mr. Kauffman be the fourth and set up a meeting where we could talk to all four of them.”

Mayor Witt asked, “How far out should we do this? Should we do it next week or the week after?”

Ms, Narloch said, “I think Tuesday might be the earliest because we have to give notice and give the candidates a little bit of time to get set up.”

Ms. Narloch said she thought the Council would probably come up with two finalists that the Council would want to come in for an interview. It would probably run into the first week in January. She mentioned that the time between Christmas and New Year's is problematic because people make plans and take time off.

Interim City Manager Mike Williams:
His Secret Schedule Had Weight; Polling the Council – No Problem

Ms. Narloch continued, “My hope was to help any way I could. Move things along sooner than later – just because of Mike and his schedule.”

Wednesday morning, December 15, beginning at 08:30 am, was decided for the interviews.

Ms. Narloch said, “I will have some questions to you early enough for you to review and tweak. We’ll agree on a set of questions that we are going to ask every candidate…We will wrap up no later than 12:30.”

Polling the Council is against the law. This is another potential Sunshine Law violation. Sunshine Law violations are neither a concern of the Mayor, the Councilmen, or the "wanna-be" Judge, City Attorney-Parliamentarian, Fred Koberlein, Jr."

Ms. Narloch added, “You can expect to get a set of suggested questions from me soon. Figure out if there is anything we want to add.”

What About the Candidates?
City Manager Professional Courtesy: The Code of Omerta

Mayor Witt was concerned about the candidates having the questions before the interview, “You said you are not going to give the candidates the questions.” The Mayor wanted to know if the other candidates would hear the questions.

Ms. Narloch explained, “It is a professional courtesy among candidates in the industry that they do not listen in on other people’s interviews. I can’t tell them that they can't listen in. It's a public meeting, but it’s just a professional courtesy.”

Ms. Narlock gave her final remark, "Mayor, I just want to reiterate that when I talked to all the council members, there was pointed discussion about the importance of connecting with the community and community relations. I just want to go on record - some people might look at - how does she know what we need? And who is this recruiter? I do care about your community, I want Lake City to move forward, but I want lots of good things to happen in your community. I've had a lot of success at this in the past.”

Ms. Narloch went off the air.

Mayor Witt announced, “We’ll be here at 8:30 Wednesday morning.”

The Rankings & Interim City Manager, Mike Williams

Community activist Sylvester Warren came to the microphone.

Mr. Warren asked about the ranking process. He didn’t get an answer.

Interim City Manager Mike Williams listens. While those in the know are aware of his scheudle, he gave up nothing at the meeting.
Interim City Manager Mike Williams listens. While those in the know are aware of his future and scheudle, he gave up nothing to the citizens who pay his salary.

Mr. Warren continued, “I heard the recruitment lady keep mentioning Mike-Mike-Mike and his time frame. I guess there is an understanding that Mike is leavin’ at some point?”

Mr. Warren asked who would fill in when “Mike is gone.”

Mayor Witt answered, “I don’t think we’ve discussed that.”

Mr. Warren followed up, “Is Mike leavin’?”

Mayor Witt’s answer was unintelligible.

Mr. Warren asked about the date that “Mike is leavin’.”

Mayor Witt said, “I don’t know the date.”

Mr. Warren asked, “And Mike hasn’t given you a date?”

Mayor Witt said, “No.”

Mr. Warren followed up, “So what is she referring to?”

Mayor Witt responded, “I don’t know what she is referring to.”

Councilman Eugene Jefferson
Long time Councilman Eugene Jefferson, reviews resumes. He would not share his requirements and the secret conversations he had with Ms. Narloch, or the future

Your reporter followed up: “I have also heard the – I don’t know if it’s a rumor, I’m pretty sure that it is a fact that the Interim City Manager is going in for back surgery. That's in the beginning of January. That's pretty much a known fact throughout the whole community, so maybe somebody could give the community and me some information about that. I think that Lake City and all of Columbia County are entitled to know what is going on with the management of Lake City. Hopefully, Mr. Williams can explain that when I take my seat.”

Interim City Manager Mike Williams remained silent for the rest of the meeting.

Secret Conversations:
Ms. Narloch and the Council Members

The City Council members spoke with Ms. Narloch in great detail about each of their requirements for a city manager. Your reporter asked the Council members to share what they told Ms. Narloch they were looking for, “So everybody would know how Ms. Narloch came up with the four candidates that she did, and then a fifth one.”

When your reporter took his seat, Mayor Witt responded, “Thank you.”

Like Lot’s wife, the Council remained in stone-cold silence.

ouncilman Hill ponders the resumes before he spoke up and shared his City Manager requirements.
Councilman Hill ponders the resumes before he spoke up and shared his City Manager requirements.

Then, just as the meeting was about to be adjourned, Councilman Jake Hill spoke up.

Referring to your reporter’s question about what the City Council members were looking for in a City Manager, Mr. Hill said, “I'll tell everybody. One of the things that I asked for, I asked for a minority – male or female. Somebody that's compassionate, a community friend, somebody that's going to be fair across the board, whether it be black or white. That's the main thing I'm looking for in a city manager."

No one else spoke up.

Mayor Witt said, “We’re adjourned.”

Epilogue

Lake City, Florida: The City where it would be impossible to make up its reality, and its credibility devolves every time it meets.

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