Interviews for Marco Island interim city manager search scheduled for next week

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Marco Island City Hall

A special meeting next week will see two out of three Marco Island interim city manager candidates interviewed in the public eye.

The City Council affirmed its decision to invite all three remaining candidates to tour the city and participate in interview but an issue with scheduling means that not all of the candidates will be able to participate next week.

The three candidates still in the running for the position 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

Hock and Menendez will arrive in Marco Island on Tuesday, Sept. 25, before meeting individually with councilors the following day. A special city council meeting has been called for Thursday so that all members of the Council can together interview the candidates in the sunshine.

Harden informed the city that he would not be able to attend next week because of a previously scheduled time commitment. However, he will be given the same opportunity to interview with the council both individually and as a whole, once a time convenient for both is determined.

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Although Marco Island will still be without a permanent city manager, the hope is that new leadership will help stabilize a government that has been under turmoil for years.

Earlier this year, the City Council voted to fire Dr. Lee Niblock after only three months on the job.

Niblock came under investigation after allegations of battery surfaced at the beginning of the year and during that process, it was determined that several actions he took provided cause for his termination. The State Attorney's Office ultimately elected to charge Niblock with misdemeanor battery. He pleaded not guilty and is currently awaiting trial.

Finance Director Guillermo Polanco has been acting as the city's manager since Niblock's termination but indicated to council earlier this year that he did not want to hold the position in a full-time capacity.

After failing to hire a search firm to place a new manager, the Marco Island City Council turned to the Florida City and County Management Association's senior advisor program as an alternative.

The free service is utilized by smaller cities to help in hiring either an interim or permanent manager and Ken Parker, one of the nine senior advisors, has been aiding Marco Island through the current process.

In reviewing the qualifications of each person, Councilor Larry Honig said that he believed all three were  "attractive on paper." 

"We've got a real shot here of getting a city manager that can come in and relieve Gil of a job that he does not want and as Councilor (Victor) Rios said, can help us look down the road for someone more permanent," Honig said. 

Honig, however, took a shot at Councilors Joe Batte and Bob Brown and their resistance throughout the city manager search process.

"It's very clear what's going on here," Honig said. "It takes five (votes) to hire and Councilors Batte and Brown will vote no on every decision to hire, to continue the process, to interview period until they're gone."

While Honig was correct in noting Brown's prior voting record ever since Niblock was fired, Batte, who was absent from Monday's meeting, did vote in support the inviting the FCCMA to Marco Island and did participate in selecting semi-finalists for the position.

Brown did vote in favor of interviewing two candidates next week and holding interviews with Harden at a mutually agreed upon time.

Brown responded to Honig's comments by stating: "I'll be the person that decides whether I vote for or against someone."

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