Marco Island City Manager Bill Moss is seeking the manager position in Naples, his first look at a job off the island since he joined the city at the outset of incorporation in 1997, he said.
Moss sent an e-mail to each of Marco’s seven City Council members Sunday informing them of his decision. He waited until the day before the application deadline to inform his council, he said, because it took him that long to decide to apply.
“It was a tough decision,” Moss said. “Both my wife and I are happy here. If you’re in city management you have to ask yourself why you would want to do something different.”
Moss said the decision to apply came down to his desire to explore a new opportunity. The vision set forward by Naples is an inviting one, Moss said, and he is encouraged by the city’s “very involved” council.
“Naples is close by,” Moss said. “And like Marco Island, it’s one of the premiere cities in the country. For me, professionally, it’s another challenge.”
Naples City Councilor John Sorey said the proximity of Moss’s current city will have little bearing on his council’s decision.
“I think it’s an overall neutral point,” Sorey said. “I’m going to look for the best person for the job.”
Naples City Manager Bob Lee announced his resignation July 12, and will leave the position Oct. 19 to pursue a teaching career at the Askew School of Public Administration at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Executive search firm The Mercer Group, the same company that brought Lee to Naples, was hired in August to help find his replacement. Candidate screening will run through this week, and the company is expected to generate a list of 12 to 18 semi-finalists.
Naples Mayor Bill Barnett said Moss would be subjected to the same application process as every other candidate, and if he makes it through initial screening phase, he will be up for consideration by the Naples City Council at Monday’s workshop.
“If he’s a qualified candidate, then we’ll go from there,” Barnett said. “We’ll see on Monday.”
Lee, the outgoing Naples manager, currently earns $154,500. The position profile lists starting salary at $150,000 to $200,000, plus benefits.
Marco Island’s City Council recently approved a pay raise of 6 percent for Moss, which would bring his salary next year to $161,000.
The island’s often tense political environment has been home to rising public criticism of Moss in recent years. Moss said this is not the deciding factor in his application for the Naples position, but that it has been unavoidable aspect of his job.
“For the most part I’ve been able to overlook some of the negativity,” Moss said. “But I can’t say it doesn’t affect us, because it does.”
The four declared candidates for January’s City Council election have been vocally critical of Moss, as well as the city’s Septic Tank Replacement Program. Ken Allen, Joe Batte, Roger Hall and Butch Neylon are all vying for posts either coming up for reelection or being vacated because of term limits.
Councilor Terri DiSciullo said she anticipated Moss making such a move before voters head to the polls in January.
“I expected something might happen prior to the next election, especially with the way the candidates have been speaking about firing him if they get elected,” DiSciullo said. “At the same time, I can see why he wants to take advantage of the opportunity.”
When City Councilor Chuck Kiester voted against giving Moss a raise at last week’s council meeting, he cited Moss’s overzealousness at spearheading new projects and speeding up existing ones.
Kiester was the only dissenting vote. He declined to comment on Moss’s application for the Naples job, stating that it is too soon after Moss’s announcement to the City Council.
DiSciullo said she fears that now is perhaps not the best time for Moss to leave, with the city’s sewer project heading into its third year.
“I don’t think it will be a good time (for him to leave,)” she said. “He is well-versed in everything that goes on on this island. The STRP will take someone else some time to get up to speed on that project.”
Ted Forcht, one councilor who has consistently opposed Moss’s advancement of the STRP, said Moss has always been professional and forthcoming with the information he needs.
“Whether or not he and I agree on something, when I need information he has always come up with what I ever asked for,” Forcht said at the Sept. 17 meeting. “And that’s all I really need from someone who’s working for me.”
Forcht responded to Moss’s e-mail with his own message, in which he praised Moss and wished him the best of luck, he said.
“If he does get the Naples job, I do not look forward to interviewing for the next city manager,” Forcht said. “I don’t think we’ll find someone else with his qualifications.”
Council Chair Mike Minozzi echoed Forcht’s sentiments, stating that Moss’ eye on the Naples position is an understandable attempt to move upward.
“I really would be very unhappy to see him go,” Minozzi said. “He’s been such a tremendous asset to the city. But I had the same reaction that I would with anyone seeking a position elsewhere: If that employee feels that he can better himself in another place, then go for it.”
Moss underlined the fact that he would remain committed to Marco Island if he does not land the Naples job, or if he declines an offer. He said it is the first time he has applied — or contemplated applying — for a position in another place.
“If I’m not selected in Naples, or I turn down an offer, I have no intention of looking elsewhere,” he said.
Jenna Buzzacco contributed to this report.