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Barring any unforeseen issues with contract negotiations, Mike McNees is coming home to Collier County to become the next Marco Island city manager.

During a special meeting Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved entering into contract negotiations with McNees, who beat out four other candidates for the job.

The other candidates were:

  • Michael Bonfield, former city manager for the St. Pete Beach and Creedmoor, N.C.
  • Steve Barwick, former city manager for the city of Aspen, Co.
  • Catherine Swanson, former city manager for the city of Hollywood and city of Coral Gables
  • Craig Coffey, former Flagler County and Desoto County administrator.

Marco Island has not had a permanent, stable city manager since Roger Hernstadt resigned in 2017.

More: Former Marco Island City Manager Lee Niblock reaches plea in battery case

More: Hernstadt resigns, Marco Island City Council begins search for new city manager

After one search failed to find a candidate that a super majority of council wished to hire, another search produced Lee Niblock, who was hired in December of 2017.

His tenure, however, was short-lived as the council voted to terminate him after three months. Niblock was found to have committed ethical violations during his short tenure after a criminal investigation was launched as a result of a battery complaint, which Niblock later pleaded no contest to.

The council was in disagreement for months over how to fill the city manager's seat before it deciding to hire David Harden in an interim capacity until it could find a permanent manager.

More: Marco Island city manager to residents: 'I'm available and here to help'

Tuesday's special meeting allowed the council to conduct a public interview with all of the candidates before it made its decision. Over the past two days, each councilor also had the opportunity to meet individually with the candidates for 90-minute private interviews.

After the first round of balloting, McNees emerged as the favorite with Barwick following as close second.

But unlike previous manager selections, which were rife with controversy and disagreement, the process was quick and easy.

Rather than try to sell himself, McNees explained who he was and how he got to this point, which began, as he put it, at the very bottom of Collier County government.

McNees ascended quickly up the ranks before he got his first big-time gig when he was tabbed to be the city manager in Sarasota.

After nearly six years there, he became the Blaine County (Idaho) administrator. Blaine County is home to Sun Valley, one of the major ski-resort towns in the country.

When USA Track and Field CEO Doug Logan came calling, McNees took what he referred to as a "walkabout" from government employment to serve as the organization's chief operating officer.

Things quickly changed though as McNees was thrust into running the organization one year later after the board of directors terminated Logan. 

From there, McNees served in an interim capacity for two years before heading back to local government when he became the city of Melbourne's manager.

People on the ground that were interviewed as part of the background check process gave McNees glowing reviews.

"Mike is personable, a family person and has a great deal of administrative abilities," Vice Mayor Dan Porsi said. "He was a good supervisor, a great manager and he accomplished a great deal for the city. I believe any city who would hire him would be very fortunate to have someone of his caliber."

His demise, however, came as a result of him applying for the previously vacant city of Naples manager position.

Although McNees withdrew from consideration after he was named a finalist, some members of the council viewed it was being deceitful and disloyal.

McNees explained Tuesday that he was asked to apply and had considered doing so because he didn't think that job would have come open again during his working lifetime.

Ultimately, McNees chose to withdraw because he felt it was better for his family to remain where they were and that he had a better situation in Melbourne.

He thought he was being loyal. They thought otherwise, leading to the events of Tuesday.

McNees ultimately asked the City Council if they thought he was right for them.

"Am I the right person for this marriage?" McNees said. "Because that's what this is."

The overwhelming answer was yes.

With City Attorney Alan Gabriel going on vacation in two weeks, he and Chairman Erik Brechnitz will begin negotiations with McNees immediately in the hopes of having a deal done by the City Council's May 20 meeting.

In the lead up to Tuesday's meeting, it was the belief that the new manager would start sometime in August.

More: With deadline passed, 60 vie to become next Marco Island city manager

More: Lack of supermajority vote dooms Marco Island interim city manager search

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

 

 

 

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