MARCO ISLAND — There is a second-floor corner office of Marco Island City Hall that no one seems to sit in for long.
It was occupied by then-City Manager Steve Thompson until his removal by the Marco Island City Council in April. He’d been on the job one year and on the chopping block twice before removed.
Following Thompson’s termination, other department heads tumbled in a City Hall shake-up that restructured the 200-plus employee government.
Among the people affected was Lisa Douglass, whose position of public information coordinator was eliminated.
“That part of my life is completely over,” Douglass said in a recent phone interview with the Daily News.
She is now employed by Moorings Park, a retirement community in Naples.
Douglass described her new role as refreshing.
“It’s like I’m working with Bill Moss again … The level of professionalism, respect, accountability and teamwork is comforting,” Douglass said.
Moss was the longtime Marco Island city manager until 2008 when he became the city manager in Naples. Marco has been running through leaders ever since.
Marco’s current city manager, Jim Riviere, was initially hired as interim manager in April. The former Planning Board member has no previous experience managing a city, but was given the long-term job this summer — whatever long-term means — he said at the time.
Meanwhile, about 700 miles away, Thompson began driving town to town in Tennessee, giving advice on governing to any of the leaders within the state’s approximately 350 cities that request information from him.
One of a series of stories looking at people and issues that were in the local news in 2010, though not lately. Have an idea? Post it below this story at naplesnews.com or call (239) 435-3457 and leave a brief message.
“I’m enjoying it,” Thompson said of the job at the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service.
Thompson, director of the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, said he pays no attention to city business in Marco Island these days but stays in touch with friends back here.
Just a few miles away from Marco, Eric Wardle, who held the since-eliminated position of chief of code enforcement, said he isn’t in touch with city officials any longer either. He continues seeking code compliance work, ideally in a busier, larger city likely on Florida’s east coast where he once lived, he said.
Wardle, currently a Naples resident, doesn’t have strong resentments about the combining of the police and code departments.
“It was a logical move,” Wardle said. “It was between me and the police captain, Dave Baer (for the combined job). Dave Baer is very capable.”
Steve Olmsted, who held the position of community development director, was the first to be laid off — on Riviere’s fourth day as interim manager.
Olmsted, also a Naples resident, initially sought consulting work. He couldn’t be reached to share whether he’s met that goal.
Joining the ranks of the recently ousted are police lieutenants Mike Peña and Cliff Morine, along with the utility manager, Rony Joel, who also held the title of public works director until recently.
“It was the year of ‘who’s next?’” City Clerk Laura Litzan said.
City Council Chairman Frank Recker responded to rumors that he is behind all the change by saying he didn’t even know Riviere planned to terminate Joel. Not that it was a shocker.
“After this past year, I don’t find anything surprising,” Recker said.
Recker didn’t give orders because, as he pointed out, council is prohibited by the city charter from managing staff.
“Whatever he (Riviere) does, he’s asked more councilmen than just me, I’m sure … I’m sure he does some things without talking to people,” Recker said.
Despite the poor reputation that Recker said Joel acquired in his six years with the city, Joel managed to renegotiate one of the more attractive severance packages.
“It seemed Rony (Joel) was always accused of doing something wrong or messing something up,” Recker said.
Yet Joel’s severance was more than doubled by an agreement signed with then-interim City Manager Tony Shoemaker on Jan. 2, 2008, which was Moss’ last day and Shoemaker’s first day on the job.
Joel is to be paid seven months’ severance instead of three months of salary.
Joel’s last day was initially to be April 1, yet Riviere has since announced that Jeff Poteet will serve as the acting utility manager. Poteet earned a 3 percent salary increase with the promotion, Litzan said.
Buzz words such as transparency, accountability and efficiency are repeated by Recker as he describes the city’s new path. The physical reconstruction of City Hall, an approximately $75,000 project, mirrors the personnel changes, he said.
Walls removed from the first floor create a more-open space than the offices once hidden behind solid closed doors.
“It’s very much attitudinal,” Recker said. “There was a time when it was like ‘there is the city and there was me.’ Now, I feel like it’s my city.”
2010: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO?
A series of stories looking at people and issues that were in the local news in 2010, though not lately.
- Whatever happened to? Disappearance of Marie Delly in East Naples
- Whatever happened to? Fort Myers woman who kept dead mom in home
- Whatever happened to? Naples group's effort to aid Haiti quake recovery
- Whatever happened to? Runway extension at Naples airport
- Whatever happened to? Changing city’s name to Naples on the Gulf
- Whatever happened to? Idol’s Paige Miles releasing first album soon
- Whatever happened to? Proposed public golf course in Bonita Springs
- Whatever happened to? Crackdown on home loan modification businesses
- Whatever happened to? The shakeup at Marco Island City Hall
- Whatever happened to? What’s next in Dennis Thompson’s future