Collier reverses decision to use recruitment firm in search for next county manager

Rachel Heimann Mercader
Naples Daily News
Sean Callahan

Collier County commissioners have reversed their vote to hire an executive recruiting firm to find the county's next manager

Collier will instead rely on its human resources department to facilitate the search for candidates. 

At last month's meeting commissioners voted 3-2 to approve Colin Baenziger & Associates as its firm of choice with commissioners Rick LoCastro and William McDaniel dissenting.

The decision came in the wake of County Manager Mark Isackson's decision to retire effective July 1 and the subsequent firing of Deputy Manager Sean Callahan after he was caught working as a Washington, D.C., lobbyist without telling the county.

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Mark Isackson was selected in March to be the next Collier County manager.

In his email to Collier County staff, Isackson said his ongoing struggle with post-COVID conditions became the deciding factor for him to leave his government role. 

During Tuesday's meeting of the County Commission, commissioners voted 4-1 to not proceed with a recruiting firm contract with Colin Baenziger & Associates. Commissioner Andy Solis voted in opposition.  

The vote came after Baenziger presented his proposal to the commissioners followed by Commissioner Burt Saunders admitting he made a mistake by initially pushing the county to hire a firm. 

"I think I am going to do something that most elected officials have a hesitancy in doing. I am going to acknowledge that I made a mistake," Saunders said. "I think sticking with our staff and doing the same sort of process we did before is the best way to go."

Collier County Commissioner Burt Saunders

The county used its human resources department to manage the search process when the county hired Isackson a year ago from within the ranks of existing county employees. 

Saunders added that his decision was not meant to reflect poorly on Colin Baenziger & Associates; rather, he said, he felt strongly that the county would be able to save money by relying on its human resources department, for which taxpayers pay $1.2 million each year. 

Baenziger said during the meeting that his company's recruitment fee would be $35,400. 

Saunders' new position echoed one that LoCastro and McDaniel expressed at the previous commissioner meeting. 

Penny Taylor

Commissioner Penny Taylor agreed that although she had high respect for Baenziger and his firm, she said it would better and more cost efficient for the county to allow its human resources department to conduct a search.

Baenziger said he appreciated Saunders' candor and honesty, something he said he believes politicians lack these days. 

Collier now plans to advertise the county manager job online and leave the application window open for five to six weeks. 

Connect with reporter Rachel Heimann Mercader: racheyy_marie (Twitter) or rachel.heimann@naplesnews.com