Guest Commentary: An update on the city manager search process
Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of discussing with several citizens the status of our city’s search for a new city manager. As we approach a very important three day period next week, I wanted to share some of my thoughts with the community and encourage additional dialogue.
At the City Council special meeting on June 20, the City Council unanimously (6-0) selected Joshua Gruber, deputy county administrator and special counsel of Beaufort, South Carolina to advance as a finalist and also selected with a 5-1 vote to advance Anthony Hamaday, township manager, Marple Township, Pennsylvania. I voted in favor of advancing both of these individuals because I thought that they both had the potential to be an excellent fit over the long-term for Marco Island.
A short time later, Mr. Hamaday informed the Mercer Group (the search firm that the city hired to handle the search process) that he wished to withdraw from consideration. This means that one finalist (Gruber) will come down to Marco Island next week to attend our City Council meeting on July 17 at 5:30pm, interview with four Councilors (individually) on July 18 followed by a community “Meet & Greet” at Mango’s restaurant at 5:30 p.m., and finally interview individually with the remaining Councilors on July 19 with a City Council special meeting at 5:30 p.m., thereafter to discuss the possibility of offering the job (this meeting is open to the public of course). I would highly encourage as many members of the community as possible to attend the meet and greet event to have a chance to learn about and converse with Mr. Gruber and attend council meetings to participate.
I have heard from a few citizens that having only one candidate down to Marco Island as a finalist could be a concern. I think it is important to address the selection process as a whole to fully understand this issue. The process that I supported (and the council as a whole supported) is designed to bring us from a potentially infinite number of candidates down to one qualified hire. Keep in mind, we originally started with over 80 applicants, reduced down to 9 semi-finalists, 7 of which were considered “tier 1” but the Mercer Group, then reduced down to two finalists, and now one. Open competition has always been part of this process and will continue to be up until a decision is made to either hire or look elsewhere. Regardless of the number of finalists, that is still the case (and yet to be determined).
The addition of “secondary” candidates at this time would be inappropriate based on the process agreed to and frankly would be problematic. Candidates for this job are paying close attention to our process and whether or not this council professionally and methodically adheres to plan that’s been laid out. Not only are we determining if a candidate is right for Marco Island, candidates are also determining if Marco Island is right for them. Being a last minute “throw-in” candidate to increase the number of finalists because someone else withdrew wouldn’t instill much confidence or project professionalism. In fact, it would be entirely unfair to apply a “special standard” for a last-minute candidate that would be different than what was applied to all candidates throughout the search.
While there certainly are citizens with legitimate questions that should not be disregarded, the reality we face is that there are some in the community who are trying to manipulate this process for their own personal or political satisfaction. Many of those individuals happen to be closely tied to prior Councils and/or City Managers and would rather sacrifice the goodwill of the city of Marco Island to create confusion and “special treatment” for some. The citizens of Marco Island spoke clearly in the last election. They want a council that will set policy and see it through instead of flip-flop time and time again when it suits them and to keep citizens off-balance. It is so important that we follow the defined process and analyze the remaining finalist objectively.
Mr. Gruber will be interviewed, will meet the public, and will be subject to scrutiny. If he is determined to be qualified and deserved of a job offering after going through the defined process by five or more councilors (the number required under our city charter) then he likely will be offered the job. If he does not meet the criteria and scrutiny then he will simply not be offered a job and the process will start over. I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you that I would never be willing to offer a job to a candidate simply because he/she were the only finalist. I am perfectly comfortable with saying “no thank you” and going back through the list if it comes to that.
I would also note that in the private sector when a job is posted and a resume received and interview conducted, if that particular individual meets the standards required, due diligence is performed, and it was determined that the individual was fully capable of succeeding in that job I would do everything possible to make sure that person was hired. A good businessman would never risk letting the right person walk out the door and get scooped up by a competitor. I think that would be a great mistake and loss for our island.
I am hoping to speak with many members of the community, both leaders and fellow neighbors, to get their feelings as well. If Mr. Gruber meets the standard for me individually and is a fit for the community as a whole, then the process worked perfectly as intended, leaving us with the right person for the job. I have spent a significant amount of time working to fix bad past city manager contracts, separation agreements, and now working to draft a better one to protect our community’s interests while offering a clearly defined role, job description, and evaluation process to the next City Manager, whoever that may be. I will not see that effort wasted by voting to offer that position to someone who I believe isn’t qualified and/or in the community’s best interest over the short and long-term.
I am fully in support of letting the process we chose play out as intended. I will continue to approach this process objectively and in search of all available data that I can find on a particular person. I owe it to the community to conduct thorough due diligence as I have all on issues I have dealt with as a city councilor.
Is Mr. Gruber the right person? That is still yet to be determined. I am greatly looking forward to finding out together with the community. Thank you all for continuing to share your thoughts and concerns with me. I would be happy to discuss this further and can be reached by phone at 239-315-2089 or via email at JGrifoni@MarcoCityCouncil.com.