Five candidates vying for Marco Island interim city manager position

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
The Marco Island City Council will move forward with background checks on five candidates for its city manager. Once those are completed, the Council will confirm Sept. 4 whether to interview the candidates between Sept. 11-13.

The number of candidates vying for the city of Marco Island's top position is now down to five.

The Marco Island City Council has authorized background checks on five interim city manager candidates and once those are completed, council will confirm at its Sept. 4 meeting whether to move forward with interviews between Sept. 11-13.

The five candidates are:

  • David Harden, former city manager of Winter Park and Del Ray Beach
  • James Hock, former city manager of Joliet, Ill. and Park Ridge, Ill.
  • Maria Menendez, former assistant city manager of Coral Gables and assistant village manager of Pinecrest
  • Donald Stilwell, former town manager of Fort Myers Beach and county manager of Lee County
  • William Vance, former city manager of Pickerington, Ohio and town manager of Lady Lake

City Council has been working with the Florida City and County Management Association on a process to place an interim city manager.

More:Who will make the cut to become Marco Island's interim city manager?

More:Amidst dysfunction, Marco Council punts on hiring firm to find next city manager

More:Former Marco Island city manager turns himself in to face battery charge

Over the last several years, there as been a revolving door in the city manager's office, which once again swung open this year after Dr. Lee Niblock was terminated in March after a little more than three months on the job.

An investigation into Niblock, who was placed on leave one month before his termination due to battery allegations, resulted in the city finding cause.

Although the City Council authorized the release of request for proposals for executive search firms, it did not have the requisite votes to hire any of the firms that responded.

With acting City Manager Guillermo Polanco indicating a lack of desire for the more permanent position, the city contacted the FCCMA about its senior advisor program, which helps smaller municipalities with placing city managers in either an interim or full-time capacity at no cost.

Ken Parker, one of the association's nine senior advisors, has been helping the city through the process and once again presented the city with its options during Monday's Council meeting.

The council arrived at its five candidates by tallying choices out of a list of 15 from all seven councilors, despite Joe Batte and Victor Rios' absences.

This became a point of contention during the meeting because former City Councilor Ken Honecker referenced a previous instance where councilors were not allowed to participate in meetings if they were not physically present due to Sunshine Laws.

Council still moved ahead with its tally and the five candidates that moved forward received three votes each. Councilor Bob Brown declined to offer any votes for candidates.

"As I was against the speed of moving this forward, no one on this list is prepared to assume the duties and learn what our city manager must do," City Clerk Laura Litzan said while reading Brown's statement from a tally sheet.

Although he did participate in choosing candidates, Councilor Howard Reed noted that the applicant pool was limited because of the speed that the city was moving at and made comparisons to the applicant pool for the city of Naples's city manager position, which was found through an executive search firm.

"They received an enormous number of really, really well qualified applicants," Reed said. "The resumes from the applicants they received I believe ran 633 pages. That's a pool of applicants. Excellence is in that pool."

Reed has been an outspoken critic of the city manager search process in the past, noting the city's failures could be tied to how quickly it moves in making a decision.

Despite his continued criticisms, Reed said that he would still participate in the process to find a candidate of excellence and the right fit for Marco Island.

"When go searching for diamonds, you have to dig through a whole pile of stuff to find them," Reed said. "[...] Is there a diamond in this list of applicants? I don't know but am I willing to take the time to interview four or five of these people? Yes, I am."

More:Despite woes, Marco city manager post attracts numerous prospective candidates

More:Marco Island City Council Vice-Chair Charlette Roman speaks on need to find city manager