'The most important thing we’re going to do this year'

Marco Island City Council continues its search for a city manager

Lisa Conley
Marco Eagle

Slow and steady wins the race; that’s a lesson the Marco Island City Council learned the hard way during its last city manager search, and it’s a lesson its being cautioned to follow this time around.

Marco Island city manager candidate Joshua Gruber speaks to the Marco Island City Council Wednesday, July 20, 2017. In a 3-4 vote, council opted not to hire Gruber, the sole remaining contender for the position.

W.D. Higginbotham, Jr. of The Mercer Group, Inc. presented the timeline for the continued city manager search to council during its meeting Monday, and said that this time he will take a full week to sort through the list of potential candidates.

“I emphasize that because we tried to do it in 24 hours last time and we all paid a price for that,” he said.

Councilor Howard Reed agreed that they should not rush the process like last time.

“I think that we were not as prepared for the June 20 meeting,” at which the councilors sorted through the list of semi-finalists, “as perhaps we could have been and I want to make sure we don’t repeat that,” he said. “If there’s one thing I hope we’ve learned from our experience … it is that if we rush this, we won’t save time. This is the most important thing we’re going to do this year, and I encourage you to put into this schedule all the time you think you need for you to do what you need to do and for us to do what we need to do.”

But some of the councilors were eager to get a move on with the search since the city has been without a manager for almost six months now.

“Wow, that’s a long timeline,” Chair Larry Honig said. “Can we not back it up and get it done earlier than that and get it out of the way?”

However, the background checks – which is something the councilors agreed they wanted – can only be done so quickly, Higginbotham explained.

More:Under fire: Marco City Council criticized for city manager search

He also explained that the reason the proposed start date for the search is nearly three weeks away is because three other cities in the state are also currently undergoing city manager searches, and two of them are offering much higher salaries than Marco.

“I think you’re at very much the bottom of the scale in terms of salary,” he said. “The candidates we had before, and even the final candidate, was looking for the top end of what you were asking.”

More:No new city manager – Marco council rejects Gruber in 4-3 vote

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More:Marco City Council selects two city manager finalists

Higginbotham’s words prompted the councilors to reevaluate the sums they were offering, which was $135,000 to $165,000. Yet some councilors said the city doesn’t need the superhero-esque candidate that a larger salary would attract.

Marco Island City Councilor Joe Batte

“I’m not looking for Superman or Batman that can come in here and solve all of our problems and leap tall buildings in a single bound,” councilor Joe Batte said. “I’m looking for somebody perhaps that wants to move up, somebody hungry, somebody that really wants to do this job, and I think this salary range allows that.”

The councilors ultimately agreed on changing the range to $135,000 to $185,000.

Council’s next meeting is Sept. 5 at 5:30 p.m. in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive. The meeting is on a Tuesday due to Labor Day, during which all city offices will be closed.