MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island City Hall is in the midst of an overhaul.
The city manager was removed on April 19. An interim city manager was appointed four days later, and Wednesday, another high level manager was removed by interim City Manager Jim Riviere.
Recent leadership changes have residents concerned about what’s to come.
“I hope we don’t have any more major, big surprises,” said resident Steve Stefanides, who has served on several city and community boards.
Rampant leadership changes included City Council’s firing of City Manager Steve Thompson; Riviere’s appointment by council on Friday as interim city manager, and then, Riviere, during his fourth day on the job, publicly announcing the removal of Community Development Director Steve Olmsted.
The decision was a financial one, Riviere said, adding that the director’s position is eliminated indefinitely. Community development includes the building, code enforcement, environmental services, planning and zoning departments.
Those departments will now report to Riviere.
Thompson announced on Wednesday that he will not exercise his right for a public hearing to call for council to reconsider his firing.
“I have nothing to do with the city at this point,” he said. “My family and I are moving on and I suggest the community do the same.”
More change is on the way, leaders say, and Olmsted’s removal is more than a financial gain.
“There have been problems in Olmsted’s departments for a long time,” said City Council Chairman Frank Recker, who led the efforts to oust Thompson.
Members of the Planning Board and Code Enforcement Board complained that Olmsted, and those under his management, were less than forthright and efficient, said Recker. No one knew that better than Riviere, Recker added.
Riviere maintains that the decision was based on a slowdown in building on Island and saving the city the annual salary of about $126,000. Olmsted, whose final day is May 28 after nearly four years with the city, will receive about $32,000 in severance.
More leadership changes are coming, Riviere said, adding that all positions are being reviewed.
“This one was an easy call, but the further you go, the harder it gets,” he said.
Support for Riviere continues among many residents.
“The residents of this city, own this city,” said Bill McMullan, a government watchdog. “I’m hopeful that this is the new direction he (Riviere) is taking us.”
Under past leadership, a closed government developed in some departments, McMullan added.
More change could be on the way.
The utilities department should get its own director with all the water issues the barrier island faces, Stefanides recommended.
Currently Rony Joel serves as director of public works and utilities.
“It’s too much for one person,” Stefanides said.
Staff problems in the city, Stefanides said, developed years before Thompson took over, including during the immensely controversial Septic Tank Replacement Program, alleged improper handling of asbestos and transitions through four city managers in the past three years with interims Tony Shoemaker and Dana Souza, as well as former managers Thompson and Bill Moss, who had led the city for 10 years before going to Naples.
“It’s up to us to finally clean this up once and for all,” Stefanides said. “I have all the confidence in the world in Jim Riviere. He’s not afraid to take definitive action.”