Marco Island City Council discusses city manager search; Rios' 'anti-tourism' comments

Lisa Conley; 239-213-5308

Marco Island City Council met Monday and although the agenda did not have as many items on it as the previous several, it was an eventful evening in which the council learned more about the city manager search, heard from the public regarding councilor Victor Rios' recent controversial comments and selected residents to serve on a new committee.

The Marco Island City Council poses with members of the NCH Safe & Healthy Children's Coalition on Monday, May 3. The council proclaimed May "Drowning Prevention Month."

The search continues

W.D. Higginbotham, Jr. of The Mercer Group, Inc. – the firm the councilors selected to conduct the search for a new city manager, and the firm that tapped Marco Island’s original, and longest-lasting, city manager Bill Moss for the position of Naples city manager in 2008 – presented the firm’s search plan to the council.

Marco City Council selects city manager search firm, Water-Sewer Options Committee members

He explained that he would like to meet with each councilor individually to determine what qualities and experience he or she is looking for in a new manager.

“If you’re looking for something that’s a deal breaker and they don’t have it, then those are the types of things I’m going to screen out,” he said. “There may be something in particular that you want this city manager to be familiar with … and I want to know that.”

He said he would then create recruitment materials based the councilors' input, and the council as a whole would approve the materials prior to sending them out on May 15. He also recommended a month-long national recruitment ending on June 16.

“We’ll reach out everywhere (and) we’ll get a good response; I’m sure of that,” he said.

Joe Batte

After June 16, Higginbotham will provide the councilors with a list of eight to 12 semi-finalist candidates. The councilors will then select the candidates that they want to proceed to the next stage of the process, which includes an extensive background check and face-to-face interviews.

Should council follow Higginbotham’s timeline, Marco Island will have a new city manager by the end of July.

However, councilor Joe Batte objected to the timeline, noting that the many part-time Marco Island residents have already returned north for the summer.

“I don’t think we should be selecting a new city manager when most folks are not here,” he said. “This is way too important to be deciding when a lot of our people aren’t here.”

Higginbotham said the timeline is not “set in stone” and he can change it based on council’s desires. The councilors agreed to have the individual meetings on May 9 and decide the remainder of the timeline at a later date.

Rios reamed out

During the citizen comment portion of the evening councilor Victor Rios faced public backlash regarding comments he made at a recent Collier County Tourist Development Council (TDC) workshop.

At the workshop Rios asked, "Do we need more people here? Winter is hell."

Dianna Dohm, executive director of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, wrote an April 28 letter to the editor criticizing Rios’ attitude and calling for his removal from the TDC; she reiterated her comments at the council meeting.

Councilor Victor Rios

“Councilman Rios’ words cannot be undone or taken back, therefore it must be undone by action,” she said, after sharing some statistics about the economic importance of tourism on the island. “The Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce is asking the City Council to do the right thing and request the removal of Councilman Victor Rios from the Collier County TDC.”

Alex Parker, Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce president and owner of AP Builders, agreed.

“I fully support the comments of the executive director,” he said. “All of us in this room are working very hard to earn a paycheck every week, and for me it’d be very hard to do that without the tourists.”

Rios – who previously clarified his comments and said he's not anti-tourism, but pro-infrastructure and pro-beaches – further defended himself.

“It’s become very typical of our society to take a small phrase or a few words out of context,” he said. “I think the accusation is uncalled for; I was more than protecting the City of Marco Island, (I was protecting) the citizens of Collier County.”

In other business

The councilors selected the following residents to serve on the city’s new Ad-Hoc Parking Solutions Committee: Joseph Oliverio; Robert Cholka; Maria Schilke; Jason Baily; Amadeo Petricca; and Pattie Ziesig as an alternative.

Jennifer Perry, Marco Island Historic Society's museum manager, urges her co-worker Austin Bell to join her in accepting the society/museum's Marco in Bloom Landscape Award on Monday, May 3. The society/museum won first place in the competition's commercial category.

Council also proclaimed May Drowning Prevention Month, noting that Florida ranks first in the country in child downing incidences.

The Marco Island Beautification Committee presented the winners of the 2017 Marco in Bloom Landscape Awards. They are as follows:

  • In the residential professionally-designed category, John and Brenda McGlade won.
  • In the residential personally-designed category, Cathleen Ahern, and Lynn and Vivian Stiles were the runner-ups, and Peter and Mary Ann Hughes won.
  • In the commercial category, the Marco Island Historical Society/Museum won.
  • In the cul-de-sac category, Mark Carew won.

Council’s next meeting is 5:30 p.m. May 15 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.