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City Council Picks Two City Manager Finalists: Councilman Hill Has a Favorite, Sampson Calls a Dead Heat, Witt & Jefferson Agree on Top Two 

Old Lake City Logo with caption: Choosing a city manager: Lake City's most important decision since the civil war
former Lake City logo | Columbia County Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – For four hours Wednesday morning, the City Council members alternately read questions to four city manager candidates who appeared on a big screen in City Hall. After the interviews, the Council had two candidates almost in a dead heat.

Background: The Questions

link to city manager questionsHeadhunter Renee Narloch developed the questions for the candidates, which were read alternately to each candidate by the Council members. Councilman Hill was the only Council member who came up with a question of his own.

Ms. Narloch’s questions were comprehensive and well-written, except on one issue.

On the subject of race, an issue that has haunted Lake City since the time of the Civil War, there was not one question.

With the recent epidemic of shootings in the black community, it is unclear how this was missed.

None of the Council members shined a light on the shootings and disparity services available to City residents.

Link to resumes of City Manager CandidatesEven after the questions were read aloud, City Attorney Koberlein would not allow their release. Text messages between the Clerk and your reporter finally had Mr. Koberlein shaking them loose.

During the four hours of questioning, there was not one follow-up question by any member of the Council.

This Article and the Audio

The Observer has highlighted five of Ms. Narloch's questions and answers and the question of Councilman Hill. The audio from the two leading contenders is available for either downloading or listening. It was recorded in the council chambers. Only the background noise was removed, and you hear exactly what was heard by the City Council.

The Q & A

Question 3: Please describe your experience within the following area – Strategic Planning/Visioning.

widget: link to answers of Glen AdamsAnswer Glen Adams (11:26): Mr. Adams said that they didn't have one in Santa Fe (Texas) when he arrived.

"Everywhere I've gone, I've done that. You have to have a vision for your employees, and in a community like Santa Fe [and] here, they didn't have one. The Council told me the community doesn't know what it wants, but it hates everything. I think in the community that is growing and changing [it is needed], and I think you all are growing. I talked to a bunch of members of the community there in Lake City. I will tell you that what they said is, ‘they need a vision.’”

Mr. Adams said that Santa Fe finally has a comprehensive plan. "I believe in the 25-year comprehensive plan."

widgit: link to answers of Thomas ThomasAnswer: Thomas Thomas (03:00)

“I’ve done about three comprehensive land-use plans. I've done strategic - financial plans for organizations outlining how we are going to go about budgeting over a 3 to 5 year period. I've done five-year, six-year capital improvement plans. I think 25 years of doing that will be an asset to your organization.”

Question 5: How would you establish credibility and build trust?

Glen Adams (18:30): He said it takes time. You have to give trust to get trust. You have to get people involved. “I am approachable. People come up to me and talk to me. I look them straight in the eye and address their issues."

Thomas ThomasThomas Thomas (09:28): "I always have a 90-day plan when I come to an organization. My first 90 days, I get a full assessment of my department directors, their strengths and weaknesses… I set goals on an annual basis that are measurable… It's very transparent, so everyone knows what everyone is trying to achieve.”

“When working with an elected body, I try to establish an individual relationship with every Councilmember… don't let two weeks go by without having those ongoing relationships and conversations.”

“Dealing with the public: having an open door policy. Making myself available.”

“Understanding that I am the face of the organization, I have to be honest; I have to be transparent, and I have to be above board on how I approach things. There is an understanding that I won't lie to you. Sometimes you won't like the answer that I will give you, but I will approach things from a strategic and honest perspective.”

Question 9:  Describe the ideal relationship between the Board and the City Manager? The Board and staff?

Glen AdamsGlen Adams (31:21): “The Council really needs to be united and a united front. I really see that as the city manager's job of sharing all of their desires individually…I believe in workshops. That way, the community can be there and hear it in a less formal environment and agree on prioritization…The comprehensive plan is the backbone to a lot of this. Until we know what the community absolutely wants, we really can't build in the correct direction over a 30 year period and be able to meet what their goals are."

Thomas Thomas (18:52): “I think the ideal relationship between the manager and the Council is all honest and open communication. Have respect for our representative form of government, accountability, me being held accountable, having weekly meetings, and making sure things don't fall between the cracks. In all, being very transparent on how I approach things getting done."

Question 10: From your vantage point, what do you perceive to be the opportunities and challenges facing the City of Lake City now and in the future?

Glen Adams (34:00): “In talking with the folks that I talked with, they truly believe that the community is a fantastic community; that we have enormous potential. There is the belief that half the community doesn't want change.”

“That’s definitely going to be a challenge…I think the community is really ready to move forward. I think there's some real issues with race relations. I think we can address it. That is a sensitive subject.”

“These are the things in my research that I saw. I believe I can handle it, and I believe I can team with the community to do so.”

Thomas Thomas (20:11): "What I see now is you have opportunities for continued growth. How you're going to approach the goal is very critical… Long-term, it has to be smart growth. That means if the numbers don't add up long-term and short-term for the city, you may be in a situation to potentially say -- no. While a developer is presenting a potential offer, you have to think about the taxpayers first."

Question 11: Describe your approach to ethics in the workplace.

Glen Adams (36:47): "My principle-based leadership does this: it allows me to have a clear azimuth on everything. And when you deal with anything that is on the periphery, you have to address it immediately; otherwise, it becomes the standard."

Thomas Thomas (22:21): “Being accountable and transparent in how to approach doing things; holding people accountable; being willing to push back when being approached to do something that is unethical.”

Question 13 (via Councilman Hill): How do you compare Lake City to where you come from?

Glen Adams (44:24): “I don’t think the comparison is easy. You are the county seat. You really don't have any other cities in the County. Almost everybody in the region comes to Lake City… Developing a plan to move forward as a team is the most important thing.”

Thomas Thomas (26:47): “Presently, I don't work in local government. I'm a public school substitute teacher. The closest I could compare is the time I was in Alaska where I was posted over all the utilities, dealing with growth issues, dealing with non-residents.”

Honorable Mention

Lake City Councilman Jake Hill
Councilman Hill listens.

Candidate Lynn Ladner was not having one of her best days during the interview. However, she should not go unnoticed.

She told the Council that they need to have a plan if grant funding does not come through.

Ms. Ladner also mentioned that she was once waiting tables and a blue-collar worker working on a factory floor. She said it is important that "everyone has the opportunity to be and do anything."

She mentioned that anything is possible in America.

What’s next?

Lake City Councilman Todd Sampson
Councilman Sampson listens. He is not the donimant figure on the City Council.

The Council discussed bringing Mr. Adams and Mr. Thomas back to Lake City in January to meet with the City staff.

On January 7, there will be a meet and greet where folks will eat cheese, drink tea, and talk with the candidates in a social setting.

Saturday, January 8, the next day, is the important day for Lake City and Columbia County. Mr. Adams and Mr. Thomas will be meeting with the Council for what appears to be the final interview.

Choosing a city manager has been in the works for months. As usual, the City Council is flying by the seat of its pants without a plan.

How will the Council develop its final questions? Will the public, the folks at the top of the totem pole, be able to address their issues directly to the candidates?

Where will the meeting be held? Will City management make sure the audio and video will be working so folks can reference the event?

Finally, when will the City Council make a decision, and under what circumstances?

Will the public have time to weigh in after January 8?

Long shot of City Council chambers
Three people attended in person, Glenel Bowden, Sylvester Warren (closest to the camera, and Stephen Douglas. The mainstream media viewed the procedings on Youtube.

Epilogue

Choosing this city manager may be the most important decision the City Council is making since the Civil War.

Unless something happens fast, there will not be a Councilperson representing District 14 involved in the decision.

Murders and crime within the City limits are off the charts.

Racism in the City government, particularly regarding women and women of color, is not being addressed.

The City Utility Department has lost the opportunity to be the utility provider for Columba County, something which at one time it was planned to be.

Lake City, Florida: the saga continues.

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