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Lake City City Manager Search: Secret Mystery Tour On Tap Today – Retired Prison Guard Leads the Way

City Manager Final Kicks off Today: Retired Prison Guard to Give Tour. Photo of paddywagon
Photo: Paddywagon Irish Pub | Columbia County Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – The bizarre antics of a City Council that has become the admitted laughing stock of Florida – and beyond – continues today with a guided tour of the two final candidates by retired prison guard and City Councilman Ricky Jernigan: the itinerary – a mystery.

Scheduled to begin at 8:30 am today, City Councilman Ricky Jernigan will load Police Chief Butler and Don Rosenthal (the City Manager candidates) into a City vehicle, and the three will take off on a mystery tour of Lake City.

link to butler infoAccording to the LC Reporter, Mr. Jernigan said, “I do not have a set plan or schedule, “I would like to visit as many businesses and people, churches that I possibly can on north, east, south and west.”

Former City Councilman Glenel Bowden’s request to be included on the tour was denied.

Rosenthal infoMr. Bowden told the Observer, “I can’t make them include me on the tour. But I will be there at 8:30 am and follow them.”

Separate & Unequal
A show brought to you by the City's latest City Attorney, Clay Martin

It appears that the only six people in Lake City who believe a private tour by one City Council member, off on his own – alone with the candidates with no itinerary – is the City Council and its challenged attorney Clay Martin, who apparently polled the board more than once during the run-up to the final days in the selection process. Polling the Council is against the law.

During Council meetings, Mr. Jernigan mentioned that he didn’t need to interview the candidates individually (alone).

Interviewing the candidates one-on-one was a process brought in by head hunter Rene Narloch in a failed search, which began in 2021.

Image by Nikko Macaspac via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic
See: City Manager Search: Tonight the Public Get Its First Look at the Candidates and the Headhunter

In the latest incarnation of the final three days of the City Manager search, Mr. Jernigan has been added to the private interviews with the candidates.

A conversation with the City Clerk was inconclusive in understanding how Mr. Jernigan was suddenly added to the final schedule after being left off all the other versions.

There is what the City calls a Meet & Greet scheduled for Thursday evening at 5:30 pm in the Council Chambers. There will be food.

Mayor Witt turned down the opportunity to present to the Council a Meet & Greet combined with a formal question and answer period for the public. This would have given the public and the Council members an opportunity to judge the candidates in a realistic setting while addressing the folks who pay the taxes and who pay the salaries.

This process was explained to the Mayor and was used in Ketchikan, AK when former City Manager Paul Dyal interviewed for that position while the Mayor was hawking him for the permanent Lake City City Manager position. See: LC Mayor Witt: Did He Collude With Interim City Manager Dyal to Keep the City In the Dark About Mr. Dyal’s Trip To Alaska?

Only two people are being interviewed for the position because of the footdragging by the Mayor and Council, and particularly the City trying to schedule the interviews around the schedule of City Attorney Clay Martin, which caused a two-week delay in the interviews – the other top candidates on the list found employment elsewhere or just decided Lake City was not for them.

Lake City Mayor Stephen Witt scheduled the time of the final interviews of the two candidates. The interviews are on Friday: Police Chief Butler at 1 pm and Assistant County Administrator Don Rosenthal at 2 pm.


Will the public know how the Council members, the ones who chose the next City Manager, came to their final decisions? The simple answer is no.

The secret tour by City Councilman Jernigan and the private interviews by the Council members will leave the public and the rest of the Council in the dark.

City Attorney Clay Martin’s (of Council to Folds & Walker Law – he is a private contractor who works for them) polling of the Council members, rubber stamping the private tour of Councilman Jernigan, and injecting himself in the business of the City Council demonstrates an elemental lack of understanding of fairness.

The Council members should all be playing with the same deck of cards.

To be fair, the Council members should all be relying on the same information and not something told to them in a government-sanctioned private meeting.

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