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Lake City City Manager Search: 9 Months and Still No City Manager – Not an Inch Closer

Photo of fish gasping for air with caption: Lake City's Brain Trust Gasping for Air. 9 Months Searching - Still No City Manager
Photo: JohKline via Pixaby | Columbia County Observer graphic

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – Interim City Manager appointment Mike Williams declines returning to Lake City. Mr. Williams wanted unanimious approval – didn't get it. 

At 12:44 pm Monday afternoon, City Clerk Audrey Sikes updated the City Council agenda with an email from the re-appointed Interim City Manager Mike Williams. He said he saw the video of last week’s City Council Meeting, and he is declining the appointment.

Background: Headhunter Hired to Find a City Manager

Mayor Steve Witt last night
Lake City Mayor Steve Witt. His pick for Interim City Manager withdrew at the last moment.

Lake City cannot find a city manager.

Technically, the search for a city manager began last July (2021). It was revealed that then-Councilman Chris Greene was advised by City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., of the city manager search in Live Oak. Renee Narloch was the Live Oak headhunter. Now, she is Lake City’s headhunter.

During the July meeting, City Attorney Koberlein predicted that then Interim City Manager Ami Fields would be, “She [Ms. Fields] will likely be the next City Manager.” She wasn’t.

Last August, in a weird deal, the City Council hired headhunter Renee Narloch & Associates to find Lake City, a city manager. The contract between the City and Narloch gave the headhunter 90 days “for the executive recruitment to fill the city manager position….”

Ms. Narloch did not have unlimited time to find a city manager. The contract spelled out how the contract was to be extended. The term "may be extended only by a written agreement of the parties."

Lake City does not have a city manager; 90 days have passed; the City Council did not extend the contract “only by a written agreement of the parties.”

Sunday, April 2, Began on Wednesday, March 30

City Councilman Eugene Jefferson last night
20 yr. veteran City Councilman Eugene Jefferson ponders the city's situation.

At 8:30 am Wednesday, March 30, the City Council met in a special meeting to interview three Narloch provided city manager candidates. After the interviews, none of the candidates were chosen for further interviews.

As the March 30 meeting wound down, the City Council accepted Interim City Manager Paul Dyal’s resignation letter.

Mayor Witt said he had spoken with former Interim City Manager Mike Williams, and he had agreed to come back to the City to fill the interim position again.

Councilman Jefferson said he thought Mr. Williams had done a good job. Councilman Sampson didn't see any other options, and Councilman Hill was against bringing Mike Williams back to the City.

Councilman Jake Hill last night
City Councilman Jake Hill did not change his mind regarding the hiring of Mike Williams as Interim City Manager.

Former City Councilman Glenel Bowden and community activist Sylvester Warren spoke against the Mike Williams appointment. Mr. Bowden and Mr. Warren were the only members of the public attending the meeting.

The Council appointed former Interim City Manager Mike Williams back to his old interim position on a 3-1 vote (Councilman Hill against).

Later, on March 30, at 4:36 pm, City Attorney Koberlein sent Mike Williams an email with his new contract.

On Sunday evening, April 3, at 6:56 pm, four days after the Council appointed him at the special meeting, Mike Williams declined his second appointment, notifying City Clerk Sikes and City Attorney Koberlein by email.

While the Clerk’s Office opens at 8 am, the emails weren’t distributed in a revised agenda until 12:44 pm yesterday afternoon.

Sunday evening, former Interim City Manager Mike Williams wrote:

After watching the YouTube video of Wednesday's special meeting. [sic] It is apparent that there is strong opposition to me returning as Interim City Manager for the City of Lake City. I agreed to return only to help and assist the City in its time of need. I feel at this time, without the support of the full council and community that it is in both mine and the City's interest that I decline this appointment. I have spent my professional career building a reputation for honest and ethical behavior. I wish the City well during these difficult and troubling times.

The March 30 Special City Council meeting ended at 12:18 pm. It was broadcast live and immediately available on Youtube. Mike Williams did not explain why he took four days to notify the City fathers of his plans.

Last Night in City Hall

Councilman Todd Sampson
Councilman Todd Sampson last night. Along with the other councilmembers, he would not ask City Attorney Fred Koberlein for and opinion of the Narloch contract.

Glenel Bowden told the City Council that Ms. Narloch was not doing an acceptable job, and once again, Sylvester Warren voiced his displeasure at the Mike Williams reappointment.

Your reporter addressed the City Council, read the 90-day time limit from the contract, and mentioned that City Attorney Koberlein had approved the contract. Your reporter suggested the City get its money back and begin all over again with a different headhunter. Your reporter suggested the Council ask for input from City Attorney Koberlein “and let him come up with something tonight,” adding, “you never ask him anything, so he just sits there silent.”

What did they do?

Photo of City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., listening to Sylvester Warren.
In a continuing pattern, City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., circuit court judge candidate, is usually not asked questions and volunteers no legal information. Last night in City Hall was no different.

In what now appears to be a premeditated scheme of silence, the City Council did not publically ask City Attorney Koberlein anything. City Attorney Koberlein is an announced candidate for circuit court judge.

The Council decided to go to the International City Manager's Association for help finding a new city manager. Ms. Narloch had also used the ICMA as a source.

Interim City Manager Paul Dyal agreed to stay as Interim City Manager until the Council works something out. See: Lake City’s Interim City Manager Says ‘No Mas’ Wants Out – Asks Council to Find New Interim

Epilogue (Analysis)

Lake City has folks worn out and shaking their heads.

The brain trust of the City is the elected City Council (now four members since last year) and its three appointments: City Manager, City Clerk, City Attorney.

There is no City Manager, the City Clerk is overwhelmed, and the City Attorney and would-be judge isn't asked questions and is loath to volunteer just about anything.

The City's brain trust is gasping for air, in trouble, and unable to stop the devolvement of Lake City and the ruination of what is left of its reputation.

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