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LC City Manager Search: Now Down To Three Candidates – City Has No Plan Moving Forward 

Lake City City Manager Search now down to three
Photo: 8photo via Freepik | Columbia County Observer graphic

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – The latest Lake City City Manager Search continued last night in City Hall. No one was particularly prepared, though it was the third City Manager search since 2018. However, without any direction, HR Director BillyJo Bible advised the Council that she had prepared questions and a ranking scheme for the City Manager finalists. The City Clerk also reminded the Mayor and informed the Council of some of the past procedures.

To see what went on in 2018 before former City Manager Joe Helfenberger got bushwhacked by the City's then sub-rosa government, see the links in: New City Manager's Contract Ready for Prime Time This Monday Night

Mayor Witt opened last night’s discussion. “Next is discussion/possible action City Manager applicants. Ms. Bible, do you want to speak?”

HR Director Bible told the Council, “There’s been nothing new since last meeting… Do you need some more assistance from me? I don't know where you’re at in the process. I think you guys were supposed to come back with three of your top candidates.”

Ms. Bible questioned who would set up the City Manager interviews and asked if anyone had any questions.

There were none.

Sylvester Warren came to the microphone. The subject matter was “City Manager Applicants.” Mr. Warren spoke about the timing of the agenda packet and accused the Mayor and the Council of “doing a lousy and horrible job of readin’ that packet.” Mr. Warren also gave his take on what happens when he (“someone”) says the Mayor is lying. “They are not calling you a liar… They’re sayin’ that you actually did not tell the truth…”

Mayor Witt asked if the Council wanted to rank their candidates. Councilman Jernigan volunteered, "I've ranked mine."

Advice came from the audience.

Mayor Witt asked the Clerk, “Do you want me to start?”

Clerk Sikes responded, “No. “We’ll have each one of you announce your top rankings in order: one-two-three.

Mayor Witt didn’t understand the directions.

There was discussion about whether number one would be number one or number three would be number one. (It is Lake City)

Confusion reigned. Asking for each Council member's three top picks was confusing. Mayor Witt thought there should be an overall ranking by points, i.e., the one with the most points wins, the one with the second most points comes in second, etc.

The HR Director stepped in. She said Council members should not be ranking them because they were deciding who would be invited for an interview. “You shouldn't be assessing them points until you are in the interview process."

Clay Martin: Said the Council should follow Ms. Bible's instructions.

link to view or download candidate info

The Council members announced their choice of the top three. While it was agreed that the names would be presented alphabetically, only Mr. Jernigan demonstrated he knew how to alphabetize, although Mayor Witt got close.

Jernigan: Butler, Guerra, Rosenthal
Hill:  Rosenthal, Guerra, Popski
Witt:  Butler, Brillhart, Popski
Carter: Guerra, Butler, Rosenthal
Young: Rosenthal, Guerra, Brillhart

There was discussion about whether to invite all five candidates in for interviews.

Mr. Jernigan said he was in favor of only interviewing the top three.

The top three alphabetically:

Butler (3 votes), Guerra (4 votes), Rosenthal (4 votes)

Councilman Hill said the interviews need to be "as soon as possible."

City Attorney Martin, without being recognized, chimed in with his opinion on the process.

Dancing in the Dark

Mayor Witt had a "shooting from the hip" plan when the process began on a Monday.

There was discussion about who paid expenses. Ms. Bible said they were all coming from Florida and would be driving. They could pay their own expenses, "But it is up to the Council."

City Attorney Clay Martin chimed in, again without being recognized, and opined about candidates, travel expenses, and candidate spouses.

Mayor Witt experienced the last three city manager searches. It didn’t appear that he recalled any of them.

Ms. Bible asked to be recognized, mentioned community involvement and thought the spouses should have already checked out the City.

City Attorney Martin chimed in, again without being recognized, and spoke about his experience with the selection process.

Mayor Witt said about the interview process, “It don’t matter to me.”

Councilman Jernigan said he thought the City should pay for the candidates’ hotel rooms.

Clerk Sikes brought up that candidates had one-on-one time with the Council members during the last process.

Councilman Jernigan inquired if Council members would be asking their own questions.

HR Director Bible said she had questions prepared for the candidates, had shared them with no one, and would not be releasing them to the public or anyone else before the interviews.

City Attorney Martin said the questions prepared by the HR Director were public records and would have to be disclosed.

The Council then moved on to other business.

In two weeks or maybe before, the City Manager Search will continue.

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