Mike McNees to bring changes to Marco Island

Mike McNees said during a City Council meeting on June 20, 2019 he was honored and humbled to be invited to be part of the Marco Island community.

The new city manager of Marco Island, Mike McNees, said he will bring changes to city government after local police officers and firefighters have been accused of having sex on duty, among other allegations.

"All I can say is there is a perception that the city government isn't as professional, as efficient, as reliable or trustworthy in all of its operations as it should be," McNees said. "It may be a reality and it may not be a reality, I can't say at this point."

McNees said that if the perception is based in reality then the reality has to change. "If it's not, "then the perception needs to change but that needs to be communicated," McNees said. "People need to know that they are getting their money's worth for the taxes they pay to support the city government of Marco Island."

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"The ultimate outcome of that has to be that the people of Marco Island need to have confidence and faith in their city government," McNees said.

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

McNees says that his job is to make sure that allegations are thoroughly and fairly investigated, and that appropriate consequences and follow up actions are taken.

McNees said the selected new police chief, Tracy Frazzano, will do a "tremendous job."

She is committed, she is high energy and she is all about doing the right things and making sure that you know exactly what those right things are," McNees said. "I think she will be a fantastic role model for all of us in the city."

"I like to hire people who motivate me as opposed to me coming everyday to figure out how I motivate everybody else," McNees said.

Both McNees and former interim city manager, David Harden, independently ranked Frazzano as the top-choice for the chief's job, Harden said. She is expected to start next month.

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"I look forward to be working with her," McNees said.

Growing up in Indiana

McNees grew up in the small town of Milan, Indiana, where his dad worked as an assistant basketball coach. Years later, in suburban Indianapolis, McNees played center in the school's basketball team before the three-point line existed. "I was way too skinny and I didn't have enough backside to be a really good center," McNees said. "I wish there had been (a three-point shot) because that would have made me a more valuable player."

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While McNees was in high school, his dad was the principal of his school. "In a small town like that, that's a pretty visible position, McNees said. "People pay close attention to the schools so I kind of grew up as the son of a public figure." 

"I didn't even think about getting in trouble, McNees said. "I knew that I would be dead meat." 

McNees said this indoctrinated him to the life of a public figure.

From Naples to Melbourne, Florida

McNees' first real job out of college was district manager for the Northern Propane Gas Company in Naples from 1980 to 1983. He had previously been a track assistant coach for Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, where he completed a masters degree in business administration. 

After working for the Naples gas company, McNees got a level-entry job with Collier County. He moved up the ranks rather quickly, building a 17-year-long career with the county government. 

He started as an administrative assistant for the utilities department and within a few year became the department's finance director. He later was hired as the county's budget director, a job he did for five years, before being promoted to assistant county manager.

Collier County was at the time the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States, according to McNees. "The county commissioners were committed to build a good, solid utility that would be the backbone for the county, McNees said. "We built the backbone of the utilities that still serves the county." 

"I'm proud of the work we did there," McNees said.

McNees last job was as the city manager of Melbourne, Florida, a town southeast of Orlando with approximately 80,000 residents. He worked there for six years until late 2018 when the City Council terminated his contract following the election of two new councilors. 

McNees said he became frustrated over the "senselessness" of the decision to terminate his contract. "It wasn't about performance," McNees said. "We were accomplishing big things in the city that they had been trying to do for years."

Promoting and supporting the good department heads and giving them the freedom to do what they needed to do was key, according to McNees. 

McNees said his administration put forward several hotel and mixed-use residential and retail projects in downtown Melbourne. "A downtown like that needs residential, retail and commercial to be vibrant," McNees said. "It needs daytime and nighttime activity and the people who live there are the biggest supporters of the businesses that are there."

Establishing in Marco

McNees said to the Eagle that he is in the final stages of buying a condo here on Marco Island. Although McNees is living here full-time, his family will not for the time being as his step-daughter finishes her senior year of high school. "I don't want to interrupt that," McNees said.

On Tuesday, McNees said hat his first day on the job was was fairly quiet. "(We were) meeting people and getting things on the calendar," McNees said.