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LC City Manager Search: Community Activist, Former Council Member, Mayor & City Council Look to Side-Step Head Hunter Colin Baenziger

Train car on the tracks with caption: Lake City City Manager Search. Headed off the rails before the new head hunter is on-board
Photo: Elland Gee via Unsplash| Columbia County Observer graphic

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – Tuesday evening in City Hall, way down on the evening's agenda, was the approval of a contract between headhunter Colin Baenziger and the City of Lake City. Not to be outdone by itself, just when one might have thought Lake City couldn't embarrass itself anymore – it did.

Community Activist Sylvester Warren and former City Councilman and Corrine Brown lieutenant Glenel Bowden recommended interviewing a candidate who sent his resume to the City Council on June 7, less than half a day after the Council approved contracting with headhunter Colin Baenziger.

Background: Heading down the rabbit hole

City Councilman Chirs Greene
Former City Councilman Chris Greene.  (file)

On July 12, 2021, then-Councilman Chris Greene recommended Lake City search for a head hunter, and City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., explained his knowledge of requesting proposals for a city manager. The LC City Manager search was sideways ever since.

Moving forward to the June 6, 2022, Council meeting, Councilman Todd Sampson threatened to sit all night until the Council made up its mind on what to do about the lack of a City Manager. Mr. Sampson’s motion: “Terminate Ms. Narloch and hire Baenziger [head hunter Colin Baenziger] as an emergency. We don’t have leadership in place,” passed unanimously

On June 14, eight days after the motion hiring Baenziger & Associates, Colin Baenziger sent Lake City updates to its August 2, 2021 proposal.

City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., had only to provide the Clerk with a resolution by which the Council would approve the agreement and a cookie-cutter version of the Narlock contract.

On June 20, Koberlein law provided the Clerk’s Office with the resolution. On June 21, at 8:05 am, the Clerk forwarded the Baenziger resolution and contract to the City Council. The Council meeting was ten hours later.

So far, there has been no explanation for the delay.

June 21, 6 pm, the Council is Gaveled to Order:
Surprising Public Comment

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

First up to the microphone was Glenel Bowden. Mr. Bowden was in attendance on June 6 when the Council unanimously agreed to terminate Ms. Narloch and hire Colin Baenziger.

Mr. Bowden said, "Last week, I did a public record request to the Clerk for whatever that each one of you received from a Mr. David Lynch… What intrigued me about it is that here's a person who got some background.”

Mr. Bowden explained that Mr. Lynch was willing to come to Lake City to be interviewed for the city manager position "on his own dime… His background suggests that he got the experience to do it, the qualifications to do it."

Mr. Bowden said it would be a good opportunity to interview somebody. "If it don't work out -- it don't work out… It’s certainly worth considering."

Mr. Bowden was followed by community activist Sylvester Warren, who was also in attendance on June 6 when the Council agreed to hire Colin Baenziger.

Mr. Warren announced that he was not staying for the entire meeting, as he was heading down to “Florida Gateway College and (sic) (to) participate in a program that's goin’ on out there.”

Mr. Warren said, "The public records request was also forwarded over to me… Mayor, we've talked, and I'm transparent. It was one of the things that I brought to your attention. You said you didn't oppose the concept or the idea… that he's willin' to come down here to Lake City, with the many issues that we have and be interviewed."

On June 6, Mayor Witt voted to terminate Ms. Narloch and hire head hunter Colin Baenziger.

Sylvester Warren III addresses the Council
Sylvester Warren III addresses the Council  (file)

Mr. Warren opined, "A lot of times, we stand up here and let people come to the podium and say some of the most ridiculous things."

Mr. Warren said he thought it was a good idea for Mr. Lynch to “fly in for free… I don't see nothin’ to lose by having him to come for free and just to be interviewed.”

It is not clear if either Mr. Bowden or Mr. Warren had researched Mr. Lynch’s background or if they had spoken with him.

Both Mr. Bowden and Mr. Warren were in attendance on June 6 when the Council approved contracting with Colin Baenziger & Associates.

One Hour Later:
the Headhunter Came Front and Center

Mayor Witt announced the resolution: “Next is City Council Resolution 2022 – 068. Mr. Koberlein, would you read that by title.”

Fred Koberlein Jr. was missing; Fred Koberlein, Sr., was standing in. Mr. Koberlein read from the agenda:  “City Council resolution number 2022 – 068, Colin Baenziger & Associates Proposal for City Manager Search -- Documents will be forwarded. I do not know whether the City Council members have received the documents.”

Mayor Witt said, “I have.”

Councilman Sampson said, “That came in Friday night, I think.”

Mr. Sampson said, "Mr. Mayor, I have a question about this unless you have comments."

Mayor Witt said, “Mr. Bowden wanted to speak.”

Mr. Bowden said that if there was a contract, the Council should stick by it. Mr. Bowden said he hadn't had a chance to review the resolution and questioned if the contract time limit was to find or hire a city manager.

Councilman Hill said the City will be "back at square one." Mr. Hill recommended that if “this guy [Mr. Lynch] is willin' to come all the way up from Illinois to just interview with us, at his expense; what can it hurt? If we like what he has to say -- and we give him an opportunity -- it won't cost us nothin'. Instead of hiring another headhunter, for whatever they charge -- the City would be money ahead by at least givin' this guy -- listen to him -- hear what he got to say.”

Mr. Sampson said he would be agreeable to interviewing Mr. Lynch but revisited Colonel Adams.

Councilman Todd Sampson
Councilman Todd Sampson   (file photo)

Mr. Sampson said:  “I’d be in favor of revisiting Mr. Adams… I haven’t talked to him. I know he has experience running multiple agencies with thousands of employees. He is experienced with coordinating agencies in managing budgets far in excess of our budget. He is not aligned with any local political group. He is not part of ICMA, which I think is a plus. He'd be fair to all citizens, as evidenced by his job history and his recommendations. He has been involved in race relations in various places across the globe, and I don't think he would be bullied by any side. I would like to see us revisit Adams to save that 30,000.

Colonel Adams was brought to the City by headhunter Narloch, who was paid for her service. 

Bowden told the Council, “I didn’t come to the podium to start this kind of conversation.”

Mayor Witt said, “Right.”

Mayor Witt allowed Mr. Bowden to respond to Mr. Sampson’s remarks as if Mr. Bowden were the Councilman arguing a position, slamming Col. Adams and his ability to deal with race relations.

Mr. Bowden said, “I’m not sure he [Adams] can understand how to work with people in City government when it comes to people of color. In the military, you got no choice. That's how it works.”

Councilman Jake Hill
Councilman Jake Hill                    (file photo)

Councilman Hill responded: “The problem I have with Mr. Adams is, when he came to Lake City, he stayed in that dump [the Blanche Hotel] across the street. The people that came out to support him support that dump across the street. That's tellin’ me that he’s gettin’ in bed – already in bed with them. And on top of that, the same people that support that dump across the street don't want to see no kind of progress on the north end of Lake City. That's my problem I have with Mr. Adams.”

Mr. Hill said he would be agreeable to interviewing Mr. Lynch.

Mr. Sampson said, “When he (Adams) was here, I asked him why he chose that, and he said he did a search, and that was the closest to City Hall.”

Mr. Sampson said he had researched Mr. Lynch's background, and what he found "might be eye-opening for some people."

Your reporter checked Mr. Sampson’s research. According to news reports in Ohio, Mr. Lynch was terminated or resigned and is being sued.”

Mr. Sampson added he was not ready to move forward with the contract as it “came awfully late."

Mayor Witt said, “I’m not ready to move forward with this contract (Colin Baenziger) tonight. We could interview Mr. Lynch.”

Councilman Eugene Jefferson
Councilman Jefferson    (file photo)

Councilman Jefferson would also interview Mr. Lynch.

Mr. Jefferson said, “I would interview Mr. Lynch, but he was terminated from the past employment and terminated for a reason which he admitted. I just don't feel comfortable with that.”

Mayor Witt asked, "Do you want to do a background first?"

Mr. Sampson said, “It might be worthwhile for everyone to know what happened.”

Mr. Jefferson added, “I think everybody need (sic) to take a look at that.”

Mayor Witt said, “We can bring it back up in a couple weeks.”

Mr. Bowden Walks Back to the Microphone

Mayor Witt looks at Mr. Bowden and asks, “What do you want to do?”

Mr. Bowden said, “Just table this resolution.”

Mayor Witt said, “Right. We can just table everything till next…."

Mr. Bowden cut the Mayor off and said, "We got a crisis in this City. We could have a special meetin’.”

Mayor Witt concluded, “If we need to, we will, but I think two weeks will do.”


Years ago, Colin Baenziger, who is highly regarded in the head hunter business, advised a candidate it was wise to stay away from Lake City.

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Baenziger takes his own advice.

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