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Lake City City Manager Search: Mayor Wants to Interview Candidates Without Looking at Resumes, Headhunter – Out of Steam

Photo of human brain with caption: still no city manager for Lake City. City's brain trust - out of options and no solutions
Photo: Alina Grubnyak via Unsplash| Columbia County Observer graphic

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – The sideways procurement of its headhunter, the enhanced level of secrecy encouraged by the City Attorney, and the general incompetence of the City Council have left Lake City reeling, dysfunctional, and unable to find a city manager.

Lake City has city manager problems. Lake City Mayor Steve Witt wants to interview anybody. Headhunter Renee Narloch has run the well dry of candidates.


Joe Helfenberger, former Lake City City Manager
City Manager Joe Helfenberger in his last appeareance at the City Council.

On June 21, 2021, former City Manager Joe Helfenberger was suspended for 45 days. Like a snowball that begins an avalanche, this set in motion events that led to Mr. Helfenberger’s eventual resignation, the hiring of interim city managers, the hiring of headhunter Renee’ Narloch, and headhunter Narloch’s unsuccessful search for a city manager.

On March 30, 2022, the last round of City Manager interviews was held. The Council interviewed three candidates, and none was asked to come back for another interview.

On April 18, 2022, Councilman Todd Sampson proposed going back to the City's second pick, Colonel Glen Adams, and offering him the city manager position.

On April 21, 2022, headhunter Narloch updated the City with a purported counter proposal by Mr. Adams. Headhunter Narloch continued her City Attorney encouraged secret conversations with the Mayor and Councilmen. It is against Florida law for Ms. Narloch to act as a liaison. Much of Ms. Narloch’s purported Adams’ counter proposal looked like it fell out of the sky or was from the Mayor.

Councilman Jake Hill was against the Colonel. Councilman Jefferson thought Mr. Adams was asking too much money, $140k for six months; the Council rejected Colonel Adams’ offer.

On May 2, 2022, Councilman Eugene Jefferson, who rejected $140k as too much money to pay Mr. Adams in April, voted to raise the city manager pay to $140-$160.

This past Monday, May 16, the City Council met, and headhunter Narloch gave a Zoom update.

Monday, May 16, 2022: the City Council Meets

Mayor Witt said he understood that Ms. Narloch was available.

Ms. Narloch came onto the Youtube screen, by which your reporter attended the meeting.

Youtube screenshot with Renee Narlock on bottom left.
Headhunter Narloch (bottom left) made in onto the Youtube screen, but only in silent mode for those viewing the broadcast. (screenshot)

Ms. Narloch greeted the Council, “Good evening Mayor, good evening Council.”

Ms. Narloch could not be heard. She had no audio.

Your reporter texted City Clerk Audrey Sikes, advising her, "Narloch cannot be heard."

Ms. Sikes did not advise IT of the problem. IT was not monitoring the Youtube transmission.

• The audio did not get fixed, and the public viewers (238 at pubilcation) could not hear anything from the headhunter.

• On Tuesday, the City's IT Director, Matt Benedetti, told your reporter that the audio problem was a technical issue and wasn't discovered until after the meeting. Mr. Benedetti forwarded an auxiliary copy of the audio track to the Observer late Tuesday afternoon.

Clerk Sikes said she was too busy keeping track of the meeting to alert Mr. Benedetti of the problem.

Mayor Witt welcomed Ms. Narloch, “Good evenin’. You got an update for us?”

Renee Narloch: The Headhunter Update

Renee Narloch
Headhunter Renee Narloch (file)

Ms. Narloch said she did, adding, “I've been trying to update you every Monday on the latest in the search for the city manager…We are reviewing applications as received. And I have actually conducted a few preliminary interviews – quickly.”

Ms. Narloch explained she had an applicant that she wanted the Council to review, but, “After talking with his family, I determined that he did not want to move forward.”

Ms. Narloch continued, “Late in the day today, I checked with the applicants that I thought you would be interested in talking with, just to make sure nothing had changed. So I'm not gonna give bad information this evening. And there were two candidates that I did want to have you review.”

Ms. Narloch failed to mention that she had sent along only the candidate resumes, without any letters of interest or applications. Ms. Narloch also failed to say that she waited until 4:37 that afternoon to forward the resumes.

Even though she had emailed two resumes to the Council members, Ms. Narlock went out of her way not to mention the candidate’s names, referring to them as “one” and “the other.”

It is a common practice in Columbia County and Lake City not to mention names and dates.

The "one," is Andrew Hyatt, who according to Ms. Narloch, "serves as city manager for beach communities," and "the other," John T Hannah, hails from Mississippi and is a civil engineer with a Masters in Civil Engineering (water resources).

Mr. Hyatt is the City Manager of Surfside, Florida, the home of the recent condo collapse and tragedy.

Ms. Narloch continued, “I would like you to review those applications. Consider talking with these folks further, perhaps doing a video interview with them. And see if you have some interest in bringing them on site for onsite interviews….the resumes are coming in steady.”

Back to the Meeting

Sylvester Warren
Community activist Sylvester Warren (file)

Mayor Witt invited community activist Sylvester Warren to speak.

Mr. Warren said, "We missed out with potential Tom Brady's, and now we're gonna be stuck with some third or fourth string quarterbacks, which we gotta do what we gotta do."

Mayor Witt addressed the council, “I haven't had a chance to look at the resumes, but I’d like to do somethin’ quick if we're gonna do somethin'. My recommendation would be that, if we're gonna do interviews, we could do em’ next Monday afternoon at five or six – somethin’ like that.”

Mr. Warren walks back to the microphone. Mayor Witt now treats him like a member of the City Council.

Mr. Warren said, “Mr. Mayor, we can't be doin’ quick. I don't know what you're implyin’ by doing quick. I think that's the problem that we keep gettin’ ourselves in trouble about, similar to puttin’ the cart before the horse.”

Mayor Witt asks, “Okay, what’s the pleasure of Council?”

Councilman Jefferson weighs in, “Well, my feeling is if she have qualified applicants that she want us to take a look at, she need to get those to us, and I think we need to take a look at em'."

Mayor Witt ads, “Me, too.”

Mr. Jefferson continued, “Because we need to move forward. The only way that we (Mayor Witt cuts Mr. Jefferson off).

Mayor Witt said, “It don't mean we have to hire em'. It don’t mean we have to bring em’ in for an interview, but I think if she’s got people she thinks is qualified, we at least interview em’.”

Shaun Holmgren
Shaun Holmgren (file)

Shaun Holmgren came to the microphone. He claimed he had asked to speak on every subject, but hadn’t been called.

Mr. Holmgren said, “The City Council is remiss in eleven months of not hiring a city administrator…you don’t have a city manager; you don’t have a city assistant manager, you don’t have a number of other department heads you’ve lost over the last twelve months.”

Mr. Holmgren then got off track and began speaking about other issues.

Mayor Witt reeled the meeting back in, “Gettin’ back to the city manager. I'd like to do the interviews if we can see if they're viable. If they’re not, then we've spent an hour or two, and that's it.”

Councilman Sampson weighed in, “I think it's interesting. I mean, we just got these resumes at 4:30. I believe it was this afternoon. I mean, it's hard to have any kind of idea what's in there from 4:30 to six o'clock.”

Mayor Witt responds, “Right?”

Todd Sampson, City Councilman, Lake City
Todd Sampson (file)

Mr. Sampson continued, “I mean, I've glanced over em’, maybe they're good. I know that the last email also mentioned there's half a dozen additional applications. We might as well look at all of em’. Why limit it to these two? Let's just look at all of em’ out there.”

Mayor Witt followed up, “We'll just have her forward all of em' because that's the pleasure of Council."

Councilman Hill added, “Yeah, I agree. We need to look at all of them, Instead of just singling out just the two.”

Mayor Witt asked the Clerk to contact Ms. Narlock “and have her forward those to us, and we'll review em’, and then we’ll take further action as needed.”

Clerk Sikes asked, “Mayor, are we just asking for the most recent six or everyone that she's gotten to date?

Councilman Sampson said, “How about all the ones she's gotten since we relisted? I think that would make the most sense.

Mr. Hill followed up, “I think that's what they did in the past; that they just sent us a bunch of applications, and we just went through em’.”

Mayor Witt asked, “Ms. Narloch, can you do that for us?”

On Wednesday, May 28, headhunter Narloch provided the City with three additional resumes.

They are from:
Sam Abuhouleh
Raymond Keen
Jared Schumacher

None of them have a day of city manager experience; none have commanded a work force remotley close to the size or complexity of Lake City's. None have comparable military experience.

Ms. Narlock said, “Yes.” Her answer was audible in the room and available to those on Youtube who could lip-read.

Mayor Witt concluded the city manager agenda item, “Okay, so that's where we'll go.”


Headhunter Narloch has been working the councilmen and mayor individually and in the shadows.

Other than Councilman Sampson, the rest of the Council and Mayor Witt have steadfastly stuck with headhunter Narloch.

If Renee Narlock has shared her plan during her shadow conversations, nobody is talking. 

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