Marco City Council begins search for new city manager

Lisa Conley
lisa.conley@naplesnews.com; 239-213-5308

Marco Island City Council members disagreed Wednesday on how quickly to hire a new city manager following the suprise resignation of Roger Hernstadt at Monday's council meeting.

Former Marco Island City Manager Roger Hernstadt

Hernstadt, who was not at Monday's council meeting, submitted a letter of resignation to City Attorney Alan Gabriel, who read the letter to the council. He wrote that he felt it was no longer in the best interests of the city for him to be the city manager.

"Although I had hoped with my heart that we could move forward for the community, I'm now of the belief that a new beginning might be best for the city," Hernstadt wrote.

Marco Island city manager resigns effective immediately

Five of the seven councilors — Joe Batte and Bob Brown were absent due to prior commitments — attended Wednesday's special workshop and shared ideas on how to conduct a search for the next city manager.

Councilor Howard Reed said he’s had extensive experience conducting candidate searches in the private sector, and he urged the council to take its time when seeking Hernstadt’s replacement.

“I hope we are not in a hurry,” Reed said. “I hope we take the approach that we need to find the best person for this position, and it takes as long as it takes. If we rush this, if we settle, we’ll regret it for a long, long time. If we get it right, the city will benefit for a long, long time.”

Councilor Charlette Roman disagreed, suggesting the city hire a candidate search firm as soon as possible and impose a 90- or 120-day deadline for a list of potential candidates.

“It’s been shown in our history … that it doesn’t matter how much time we take or how many searches we do,” she said, noting that the average tenure for Marco Island's city manager is one year and three months, compared to a five-year average for similar cities. “Our track record is very, very poor, and I’d like to see this council turn it around.”

Vice Chair Jared Grifoni agreed.

“I don’t know if that’s a reflection on prior councils (or) managers,” he said, referring to Roman’s statistics on manager tenure, “but what I do know is as we move forward, we need to hire the most competent person for the job … who will respect the powers and the authorization for that position.”

Chairman Larry Honig said the former council, of which he was a member, did not spend enough money during its last search for a city manager. The city spent $18,500 on an initial search firm, and when that firm did not provide satisfactory results, it spent an additional $6,752.24 on a second search firm.

What it did not spend money on, however, was flying candidates down to Marco Island so the councilors could meet them face-to-face, and that was a mistake, Honig said. Other councilors agreed.

The council will continue its discussion at its meeting. Finance Director Guillermo Polanco will serve as acting city manager until the council hires a new city manager and will receive a $3,000 per month stipend.