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LC City Manager Search: Looking for a Job, $160k Now the Top Pay - City Council Has an Epiphany

Photo of light bulb with caption: Lake City City Council has an epiphany. City's top job now worth $160,000
Photo: Devin Avery via Unsplash| Columbia County Observer graphic

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – Monday evening, the Lake City City Council re-thought its salary requirements for a city manager. Mayor Witt and Councilman Hill and Jefferson had changes of heart and upped the salary ante from $120k a year to $140k to $160k.


The Lake City City manager search has been dragging on for over nine months.

Headhunting firm Narlock & Associates was initially brought to the City Council through City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr.

City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr.
City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., was instrumental in bringing Renee Narloch to Lake City.   (file photo)

The procurement process was bollixed up from the start. In August 2021, the City Attorney ignored the advice of the City’s procurement director by suggesting an emergency work-around of the City’s procurement policy.

During the August meeting, Mr. Koberlein read from a secret document that spoke about public works projects and pre-conferences, nothing of which had to do with the procurement of a headhunting service. (After a public record request for the Koberlein referenced document, Mr. Koberlein refused to provide it).

During the August meeting, then-Councilman Chris Greene claimed COVID as an emergency reason not to request proposals. A confused Council approved headhunter Narloch & Associates on a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Witt the tiebreaker.

Narloch & Associates’ bid of $19,950 was coincidentally fifty-dollars under the City’s $20,000 bid threshold to go out for requests, a fact that Mr. Koberlein did not point out at the August meeting.

Considering Attorney Koberlein’s suggestion that an emergency may have existed and that it would take thirty days to receive proposals, it took the City 30 days to authorize Narloch to begin its search.

The sideways start got us to where the City was this Monday evening.

Monday (May 2) at the City Council

Approximately thirty minutes into the meeting, the matter of the City Manager search was front-and-center.

Jerry Leszkiewicz made a repeat appearance from the April 26 meeting.

Mr. Leszkiewicz said people are calling him, complimenting him on his previous recommendations, one of which suggested that the City Council members resign. He said there are a lot of people in this community that are not pleased with the situation.

Former City Councilman Glenel Bowden weighed in on Ms. Narloch and the city manager search.

Mr. Bowden said he was concerned that Ms. Narloch reached out to the Councilman individually, and he thought that was a problem.

Former City Councilman Glenel Bowden
Former City Councilman Glenel Bowden addresses the City Council.   (file)

He said, "I think that for the most part, the conversation need [sic] to be in the public eye.”

Mr. Bowden said Ms. Narloch is getting separate opinions from each Councilman, and she is trying to put all the opinions together and come up with a consensus. “It is not transparent…  I agree with Mr. Sampson [Councilman Todd Sampson]; it's time for us to change…it's time for us to employ another headhunter."

Then, Mr. Bowden added a Narloch testimonial, "I know she's not sharing her opinion with you all cause that would be a violation of the sunshine [law]."

Mr. Bowden did not explain how he knew Ms. Narloch was “not sharing her opinion” or knew she would not violate the sunshine law, which prohibits her from acting as a liaison between Council members.

Mayor Witt began the Council Conversation

Mayor Witt said, "We got an email from Ms. Narloch today. She's re-advertising again…apparently, she's going to get a few more candidates for us. I think we're going to have to come up to 130-140 [thousand dollars a year city manager salary].

Councilman Hill Walks It Back

Councilman Jake Hill
Councilman Jake Hill.   (file photo)

Most everybody in the Lake City/Columbia County community thought Councilman Hill’s primary concern in finding a city manager was the next city manager be black.

Mr. Hill told the Council, “I need to clear the air on something. It's been said that this Councilman want a minority for city manager. Jake Hill wants the best-qualified person for that job. I don't care if he is black or white, or Asian or whatever. I want the best-qualified person for that job."

Mr. Hill said it would be nice to have a minority city manager, but added, “I want the seat to be filled with somebody that’s qualified. And that’s all I have.”

Councilman Sampson Speaks About the City Manager Salary

Councilman Sampson said that former City Manager Wendell Johnson when he left the City was earning $163k, adding that he thought $160k for the city manager "was about the right number… considering inflation, Mr. Johnson's salary would be well over $200,000 today."

Mr. Sampson said Ms. Narloch “should have come to us and said, ‘This is the salary range we need to advertise.’”

Mr. Sampson continued, “I don't think this has been handled well. We're well beyond the 90 days that the contract we signed said for her to find somebody. I think it's time for us to move on and hire a new headhunter… Going forward, we're going to have to re-think what we are willing to pay… We're managing a $65 million budget. We need to make sure we get someone that's qualified.”

Once again, City Attorney Koberlein did not volunteer a confirmation of Mr. Sampson’s understanding of the "90-day" Narlock performance contract clause.

Mayor Witt Has a Change of Heart

Mayor Witt said, “When I mentioned 140, I think that's [unintelligible]. We want quality; we want a good manager, and if it takes 160 to get a good manager, I'm all for it.”

Mr. Sampson said, “We’re going to get what we pay for.”

Councilman Jefferson Sees the Light

Councilman Eugene Jefferson
Councilman Jefferson    (file photo)

Councilman Jefferson said, “Mr. Mayor, if we’re going to offer, and I don't have a problem with that, what Mr. Sampson already said, ‘You know, you get what you pay for,’ but if we’re gonna offer more, I think we need to advertise it as such, so that every applicant will know what we’re placing out there and where our salary boundaries are.”

Mr. Sampson said he couldn’t find any of Ms. Narloch’s advertisements and added, “We need to ask for our money back and go in a different direction. I tried that twice and have not gotten a second, so I don't know that I need to make that motion again?"

Mayor Witt ignored Councilman Sampson’s remarks and asked, “Do We all agree that we want to go with the 160?”

Mr. Sampson said, “We could compromise and give a range. We could say 140 to 160.”

Councilman Todd Sampson
Councilman Todd Sampson   (file photo)

Mr. Sampson again brought up Ms. Narloch and her back-door conversations with the City Council: “The conversations in the dark, that's not a good way to run this thing. We should have her on the screen or in the audience, and she should be telling us what's going on instead of talking to me and saying one thing -- who knows what she told each of you. I think we need a fresh start with a new headhunter.”

About the City’s prior salary range [120-130], Mr. Sampson said, "I don't remember her asking a range. I don't know where she came up with what the numbers were. She never asked me that…put a range on it and advertise it.”

Mayor Witt asked, “What’s the range you all want?”

Councilman Hill said, “I’m in agreement with 140 to 160. That’s a motion.”

Mr. Jefferson seconded the motion. It was unanimous.

Councilman Sampson’s Parting Shot: Where was the Headhunter?

Headhunter Renee Narloch at the Glen Adams interview in January.
Headhunter Renee Narloch at the Glen Adams interview in January.

Mr. Sampson spoke about Monday’s April 26 Special Council meeting and the lack of an appearance by Headhunter Narloch: “I was confused why she wasn't here last Monday when we were discussing that [the Colonel Glen Adams offer]… why wouldn't she be here. We’re doin’ a presentation of a candidate she brought to us. She should have been the one presenting information to us, and yet she didn't show up, didn't bother to call, didn't do anything. I'm not sure if she wasn't available, or if she's too tied up, or maybe we're too small for her. I would like to have her at each meeting – give a presentation – saying, ‘This is where we’re at. This is what's going on.’”

The Mayor, as well as the other Council members, ignored Mr. Sampson.


While members of the public and Councilman Sampson have decried the lack of progress and back-door communications with Ms. Narloch, it was only after the meeting ended that Mayor Witt and Councilmen Hill and Jefferson shared their thoughts supporting Ms. Narloch.

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