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Lake City City Manager Search 2024: Ranking the Candidates & Next Steps - Tuesday In City Hall

Use the information in this story to rate the candidates

Photo: Jessica Felicio via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – The latest Lake City City Manager search continues on Tuesday evening, with HR Director BilllieJo Bible scheduled to make a presentation to the Council. Ms. Bible will review the application review process. The Council will decide where to go from there.


The latest City Manager search was instigated on September 19, 2023, by the resignation of then City Manager Paul Dyal after only nine months on the job. See: Lake City City Manager Paul Dyal Resigns…

On October 2, 2023, after hinky contract issues, Paul Dyal was officially out, and Demetrius Johnson was in as interim city manager.

During the October 2 meeting, Mayor Witt suggested that the Council reach out to the International City Manager's Association (ICMA).

On December 4, after another “Dyal” distraction, it was agreed that the City would have the City HR Department do the search and keep the application process open for sixty days.

Only Councilwoman Young voted against the resolution. Her position was that Interim City Manager Dee Johnson should be given eighteen months to prove himself.

It was acknowledged that Mr. Johnson was not qualified to fill the position according to the requirements of the City Charter.

HR Director Bible’s marching orders were clear: keep the position open for sixty days, make sure the applicants met the minimum requirement as required by the City Charter, and forward the resumes to the City Council for review. The salary range was $140k-$150k.

On December 18, agenda item eighteen was added: Interim City Manager Johnson will serve for eighteen months; Councilman Jernigan seconded the motion. Mayor Witt said that if the City Manager's search were halted, the City would be in violation of the Charter.

Ms. Young withdrew her motion.

That was the last time the city manager search was discussed by the City Council.

Lake City City Manager candidates
The bullseye highlights the six candidates that the HR Department rated as, "Made it through the preliminary stringent review process." (view as a pdf)

City Manager Search: Results  to Council

In an inquiry from your reporter on the afternoon of February 15 regarding the search process, Ms. Bible summarized the distribution process, “All applications received by the deadline of 2/2/2024, resumes, and any additional documents were copied and submitted to Council members, with top candidate rankings included.”

The information was submitted to the Council on February 9 for their review.

Lake City City Manager "Dear Applicant" letterA few minutes before 10 am on February 15, your reporter received a copy of a "Dear Applicant" letter. The letter thanked the applicant for applying and explained there were many applications, “and only a few competitive candidates have made it through the preliminary stringent review process. Unfortunately, at this time, you are not one of the few selected.”

The letter explained that the Council would have the final say and "will make a determination on who is selected for an interview."

According to Ms. Bible, the letter was sent "At the request of a Council member" and via email to all candidates who did not make the top six.

Your reporter spoke with the following for this article.

HR Director BillieJo Bible: your reporter asked about her rating process. “You named the top six because that's what you thought they wanted you to do?”

Ms. Bible answered, “Yes. Nobody was eliminated.” Ms. Bible also explained that she examined the submitted material to be sure that applications met the City Charter requirements of a “Bachelor's degree from an accredited four (4) year college or university and have either ten (10) years of progressively responsible experience in municipal or corporate management in a senior management position or any equivalent combination of training and experience.”

Ms. Bible also said that she ensured the applicants met the "qualifications in the job description.”

Your reporter also discussed the “Dear Applicant” letter, inquiring about Ms. Bible’s remarks that the letter was sent “At the request of [a] Council member.

The Council member was Ricky Jernigan, who has opined at Council meetings that Council members are to go through the City Manager's Office and not deal directly with staff.

Your reporter asked, “At the request of a council member, you sent them a letter?”

Ms. Bible said, “I worded that wrong. He came in and asked if I sent letters. I said I do, and he said, I just want to make sure… He didn’t tell me what to do.”

Ms. Bible reiterated, “The Council will make the final decision of who to interview.”

Mayor Witt: Your reporter asked Mayor Witt how many candidates he anticipates having as finalists. Mayor Witt said he would recommend that the Council members return with the "top three or four, and then we do a Zoom interview and bring two in as we did before."

Mayor Witt said he has begun reviewing the candidates and will continue his review over the weekend. He will bring his top picks to Tuesday’s meeting. He said, “I will look at the top picks of HR, but that will not be the deciding factor for me.”

City Councilman Jake Hill told your reporter he is reviewing the candidates. He said, "I'm paying particular attention to the HR Director's picks." Mr. Hill said, "I want to bring the top three in for an interview as soon as possible after they are chosen."

City Councilwoman Chevella Young said she has been reviewing all the candidates, “not just the six,” and will continue to review them over the weekend. Your reporter asked her if she thinks she will come to the meeting with a group of top picks. Ms. Young said, "It's possible.”

Ms. Young closed the conversation, “I’m serious about this, very serious, and I hope the others are, too.”

Councilman Ricky Jernigan was incommunicado. Your reporter contacted Mr. Jernigan with a phone call in the morning and a text message at 5:33 this evening. Mr. Jernigan was advised that his comments would be welcome at any time before publication.

Your reporter concluded his conversations with former City Councilman Todd Sampson.

Former Councilman Sampson said the City needs to find an experienced City Manager. Mr. Sampson said, “The City needs to find a manager with a proven economic development background so the City can increase its revenue.”

Finally, Mr. Sampson had some advice for the Council. "The Council should use the Ketchikan model for this important process. All final candidates were brought in for a three-day event, which included a community tour, candidate sessions with senior staff, a community forum and then interviews with the Mayor and Council scheduled on the last day (Saturday).

Mr. Sampson said, "Having more than two finalists will also keep the Council from getting blindsided and left with just one or no candidates as has happened in the past."

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