It took just three votes and six minutes for the Naples City Council to decide that Bill Moss is their man.
The Marco Island city manager was approved by a 6-1 vote to take up the same post in Naples, with attending council members lauding Moss for his professionalism and poise.
Meanwhile, Marco Island City Council members lamented the loss of the city’s only manager in 10 years of cityhood.
“It’s our loss,” said Marco Councilor Ted Forcht. “They’ve gained a great city manager.”
Forcht was one of a handful of Islanders that e-mailed the Naples council to commend his abilities Monday during interviews, calling him “principled” and “dedicated.”
“He’s been called the consummate professional so many times, it’s like a cliché,” said Marco Island City Clerk Laura Litzan. “But that’s exactly what he is.”
Litzan, like Moss, was hired at the city’s creation. She and Moss started work the same day nearly 10 years ago.
“We’re definitely going to miss him,” she added.
Photo by LESLIE WILLIAMS HALE, Eagle staff // Buy this photo
While much of the Marco council expressed the same feelings of dismay, reactions were mixed with a healthy dose of realism.
“I’m not surprised,” said Marco Council Chair Mike Minozzi. “I had no doubt in my mind that they would accept him. They know what kind of individual he is and what he’s able to do. He was a tremendous captain of our ship.”
Moss will leave behind much ongoing controversy, particularly over island construction and the city’s Septic Tank Replacement Program. He was pinpointed as the mastermind of the controversial $100 million program to replace the island’s septic tanks with an expanded sewer system.
“Mr. Moss was a scapegoat on the City of Marco Island,” said Marco Councilor Rob Popoff. “I’m sorry he has to go. He took a lot of guff from people and it was based on council direction and not Mr. Moss.”
Many people point to the inception of the sewer program as the point where opinion of Moss started to sour.
“I will say this much,” said resident Russ Colombo. “Marco Island was extremely fortunate to have found and employed Bill Moss at the first three years of our cityhood. For the first three years, I feel that we could not have done better than Bill Moss. Judging from the reaction of the general population, I feel that mostly after 2000, he seemed to have outworn both his welcome and his usefulness for Marco Island.”
Colombo, chair of political action committee Preserve Our Paradise, headed up a failed effort earlier this year to subject Marco’s city managers to a vote of confidence every four years. By popular vote, the referendum would have allowed voters to remove the city manager for doing an unsatisfactory job.
“When you get into politics, every time you do something, somebody doesn’t like it,” said Naples Councilman Bill MacIlvaine. “From what we gathered, it was a minority of people who were very unhappy about switching from septic to sewers, which I think is inevitable. I think we paid the most attention to how he conducted himself.”
Like his fellow council members, MacIlvaine said the controversies on Marco Island were a consideration in their decision, but simply didn’t carry the weight of Moss’s excellent references, impressive city building history and strong interviews.
To Naples Councilman John Sorey, Moss’s handling of the controversy worked in favor of his hiring. He said, “The factors that made him favorable for the job were that, a. he was local and understood Naples problems, b. he was very well qualified with a number of years of management under his belt, and c. he came from a very diversified city where 50 percent of the people wanted sewers and 50 percent wanted septic.” He added, “To me that was a very difficult situation and he handled that great.”
Sorey also said the six candidates who made it to final interviews in Naples were all equally qualified, making the big decision all the more difficult.
“What turned the corner on me was him being local and him handling diversity,” he explained.
Naples Mayor Bill Barnett said it was one of the hardest decisions he has ever had to make during his tenure.
“He has really weathered a storm on Marco,” he said. “Obviously the sewer debate —he has really been in the middle of that. His references were terrific.”
Barnett pointed to the email he received from Forcht. The Marco Councilor was elected as an anti-sewer candidate, but Barnett said Forcht’s appraisal of Moss spoke volumes.
“That’s really a credit to Bill,” Barnett said. “Here you’re talking about someone who was on the opposite side giving him a recommendation.”
Just after the meeting, and once an elated Bill Moss delivered a few comments to the press, Barnett and Moss moved to City Hall to work on the details of Moss’s new contract.
An initial contract drafted Wednesday by Barnett’s office included a salary of $177,000 for Moss.
Moss’s salary on Marco Island, according to the contract revised in September, is $161,000, with an additional 38 percent “in lieu of, and as an alternative to, any and all benefits relating to deferred compensation, health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance and retirement contributions.”
The Naples position was advertised at an annual salary of $150,000 to $200,000. Outgoing Naples City Manager Bob Lee was making $154,529. His last day was Oct. 19.
Moss’s current contract with the City of Marco Island also provides that he give written notice of least 75 calendar days, unless waived by council.
Moss said he would like to work on acquainting himself with Naples in the meantime, which he expects will make for a heavy workload.
“Really, what I hope is I can make a transition into the position,” he added.
If Moss does finish out the next 75 days, as his contract stipulates, he would be vacating his office just three weeks before Marco Island’s City Council elections in January. The elections may be pivotal for the island, as four of the declared candidates have promised to stop the seven-year sewering program, which is now wrapping up its third year.
“I think I would rather have left at a period that was a little more settled,” said Moss. “The timing, I wish, was better. But it is what it is.”
He added that he had to strike while the iron was hot. Four years ago, when the same position was open, he said, the time just was not right.
“Obviously, for this kind of thing, the timing is never good,” said Minozzi who added that he thinks Marco Island would be best served by hiring an interim city manager while the city searches for Moss’s replacement.
Minozzi said he expects that discussion to take place at Monday’s special-called City Council meeting.
City leaders expect it to be quite a task, replacing the man who has been at the helm for as long as the city has stood.
“I think it’ll be difficult to find someone with his qualifications in terms of his extensive background and abilities,” said Marco Councilor Bill Trotter. “I think we need to get started as soon as possible. Certainly, we have a lot of important programs that are in progress and to a degree we need to just keep them going in a positive direction.”
He added that he fears recent controversy will keep some qualified candidates away from the island.
“I hope qualified people will still come to Marco, and won’t be deterred by the POP petition trying to make the position elected,” Trotter said. “That’s not something city managers are used to, being in an elected position, so I hope it won’t deter candidates.”
Colombo balked at the suggestion that quality candidates would be driven away by that possibility.
“That was one of the arguments when POP first proposed the amendment,” he said. “I always said we didn’t want anyone in the position that would not be willing to be accountable to the people.”
Though he said he believes the negativity on the island is dissipating, Popoff said it would take a strong job candidate to step into Moss’s shoes.
“We’re only going to get candidates that are willing to put up with that type of contentiousness,” he said. “Anyone that’s willing to step up to the plate and take that is going to have to be a very strong person.”
BILL MOSS NAMED NAPLES CITY MANAGER
- POLL: How do you feel about Bill Moss getting the Naples city manager job?
- DOCUMENTS: Read Moss' contract. 377 kb .pdf file
- RESUME: Daniel W. Fitzpatrick 1.1MB .pdf file
- RESUME: Wm. G. Hinchey 1.1MB .pdf file
- RESUME: A. William Moss 1.1MB .pdf file
- RESUME: Hector A. Rivera, Sr. 1.1MB .pdf file
- RESUME: Patrick G. Salerno 1.1MB .pdf file
- RESUME: Linda Lovvorn Tucker 1.1MB .pdf file
- PHOTO GALLERY: Interview for Naples city manager job
- PHOTO GALLERY: Naples City Manager Candidates
- RELATED: Bill Moss named new Naples city manager (10-23-07)
- RELATED: Search for Naples city manager ends Tuesday (10-22-07)
- RELATED: The six candidates: What they said in their interviews (10-22-07)
- RELATED: Marco's Moss goes before Naples council (10-22-07)
- RELATED: SPECIAL REPORT: Pick from six: The field narrows for next Naples city manager (10-20-07)
- RELATED: SPECIAL REPORT: Six candidates for Naples city manager (10-20-07)
- RELATED: Marco's Moss makes list of six for Naples manager interviews (10-15-07)
- RELATED: Sanibel city manager drops out of race for same job in Naples (10-11-07)
- RELATED: Marco, Sanibel managers in top 10 for Naples city manager post (10-01-07)
- POLL: In the wake of Bill Moss' positive review, pay raise and talk of departure, do you approve of the job he is doing?
- RELATED: 61 apply for Naples city manager job (09-28-07)
- RELATED: Marco's Bill Moss seeking Naples manager position (09-24-07)
- RELATED: Bill Moss' e-mail to councilors about interest in Naples city manager job (09-24-07)
- RELATED: Marco city manager gets high marks from council (09-17-07)