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The City of Marco Island is one step closer to having a new manager; the Marco Island City Council selected two finalists during a special workshop Tuesday.

W.D. Higginbotham, Jr. of The Mercer Group, Inc. – the firm the councilors selected to conduct the search for a new city manager, and the firm that tapped Marco Island’s original, and longest-lasting, city manager Bill Moss for the position of Naples city manager in 2008 – presented the list of semi-finalists to the councilors Tuesday.

The top seven semi-finalists were as follows: Garrison Brumback of Southington, Conn.; Joshua Gruber of Beaufort, S.C.; Anthony Hamaday of King of Prussia, Pa.; Paul Van Haute of Eatonton, Ga.; Gary Palmer of Farragut, Tenn.; Joshua Ray of Aztec, N.M.; and Jeff Wilkins of Oswego, Ill.

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Higginbotham provided the councilors with an overview of each candidate, including his experience, current salary and general personality. Vice-Chair Jared Grifoni then presented his own findings to the council in the form of a summary table that highlighted the positives and negatives of each candidate, as well as how comparable their current position is to the position of Marco Island city manager.

From there, the councilors began nominating their favorites to move forward in the process. Gruber was the first candidate to advance to the final round, and the only one to do so with a unanimous vote.

Gruber, whom Higginbotham said is “very much a people person,” is currently the Deputy County Administrator and Special Counsel for Beaufort County, S.C. Prior to that he served as Assistant County Attorney of Berkely County, S.C. He was also recently considered for the position of Fort Myers Beach town manager, a job that ultimately went to Marco’s former city manager Roger Hernstadt.

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All of the councilors supported advancing Gruber, especially since he was the only candidate with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) certification; however, a few noted that most of Gruber’s government experience is as an attorney rather than a manager, which means he’ll probably have to learn some things on the job.

City Council Chair Larry Honig was particularly favorable toward Gruber; he said there’s a chance he could be “this generation’s Bill Moss,” meaning he might stick around for a while, especially since, as Grifoni pointed out during his presentation, he has young kids.

Hamaday was the next, and last, candidate to move onto the final round.

Hamaday, an “outstanding candidate,” according to Higginbotham, is currently the Township Manager of Marple Township in Broomall, Pa. Prior to that he served as Township Manager of Upper Providence Township in Media, Pa. He was also a city manager finalist for Winter Haven, Fla.

Council praised Hamaday’s wealth of experience, and particularly liked the fact that he expressed an interest in staying on Marco for upwards of 17 or 18 years, which would give the city stability that it has not seen since Moss left nearly a decade ago.

Hamaday advanced with a vote of 5-1, with councilor Bob Brown dissenting and councilor Joe Batte absent.

Although council initially wanted three final candidates, they had too many concerns about the other semi-finalists, ranging from sudden resignations to histories of domestic violence and harassment.

Higginbotham said he will notify all candidates of their application status, and will begin the process of conducting an extensive background check on the two finalists.

Gruber, Hamaday and their spouses will be invited to a public meet-and-greet at 5:30 p.m. July 18. The councilors will then interview the two on July 19 before making their final decision that night.

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