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‘Games played by this council only hurt our community’

Dear Marco Island City Council: In the 20 years I have lived here I had removed myself from local politics due to the proverbial “good ‘ol boys club” that existed. People like me didn’t have a voice in our community. However, something was different during the last election. Two candidates stood out from the rest and I voted for them with enthusiasm.

pleased to say I voted for Jared Grifoni and I would vote for him again. He stood firm in his beliefs and did not allow the minority to influence his commitment to our community. Mr. Grifoni, thank you for representing Marco Island in an intelligent, all-encompassing manner.

On the other hand, Howard Reed ran on the same promises; to eliminate the oppressive bureaucracy and vote on the will of the people, not on the agenda of the few. Mr. Reed aligned himself with Mr. Grifoni during the election to make voters believe he had the same value system. I am disillusioned by his arrogant presentation [Wednesday] night and ultimate vote against Marco Island. You, sir, should be ashamed of yourself. You will not get my vote or support if you decide to run again.

To be honest, while I was disappointed with Batte, Roman, and Brown, I was not surprised.

Rios, you are to be commended for your efforts to vote the will of your constituents and your valiant attempt to sway those councilors denying our community the perfect city manager. If you choose to run for office again you will have my full support.

Chairman Honig, thank you for continuing to vote the will of the people and lead the council in a professional manner.

The games played by this council only hurt our community. The voting citizens of Marco Island are educated, informed, and care deeply for our community. While disappointed in the outcome, I will continue to be involved and not let the cronyism of the past infiltrate our community or suppress our voices!

Kind regards.

Jerra Minning, Marco Island

Change for the better

Thank you Councilors Batte, Brown, Reed and Roman for having the courage and conviction to give the selection of the city manager the much needed time and consideration by voting no. You have allowed Marco Island the opportunity to change things for the better.

Thank you Councilor Reed for your balanced, informative and comprehensive presentation. I would urge all citizens to visit the City’s website and review Councilor Reed’s comments at City Council’s July 19 special called city manager selection meeting.

At this meeting, several citizens spoke very positively about Mr. Gruber’s character before council. Yes, he did seem to be a likeable and friendly person but this is not a popularity contest. Marco Island needs and deserves a candidate with several years of city management experience, not one that can “grow up” in our community.

Yes, there was some embarrassment throughout this ordeal. In my humble opinion, the first example would be the “Meet and Greet The Candidates” public event held the evening before the vote for final candidate selection. I think this event was putting the cart before the horse. We the citizens are not the ones voting. What do we the citizens really learn about a candidate after a 60 second introduction at a meet and greet?

"You had me at hello" works in the movies, not for the most important job in the city. Of course candidates are going to appear nice, approachable, and positive, they want the job! To me, it makes a lot more sense to host a "Meet Your New City Manager" after he/she has been selected.

second embarrassment was the display on the dais of inappropriate, unprofessional bad temper dumped on two councilors and Mr. Higgenbotham at the end of council’s meeting. It is sad that this will be the negative internet image of City Council’s dysfunction, not the four councilors who did the right thing by voting no.

Linda Turner, Marco Island

The city manager that Marco Island needs

Last week ended a 6-month period of turmoil following Roger Hernstadt’s sudden resignation as our city manager in February. The Marco City Council followed a normal selection procedure that brought us, in the end, to the last man standing, whom a majority of council felt was not the right person for the job. So where do we go from here?

The first step is to recognize ourselves. We are a 20-year-old city still wrestling with a divisiveness that goes more than two decades back to battles over cityhood, continues through the STRP wars over converting from septic systems to central sewers, and more recently includes deep divisions over a rental ordinance, the development of Veterans Community Park, the utility rate structure, a vacant lot assessment and other issues.

The past problems have been pushed aside, but are never fully buried. An undercurrent threatens that “the other side” will control a majority on City Council and deliver “righteous payback.” The healing process is not complete, and it will not be complete until we have a city manager who, through his or her actions, shows that government is here to serve all of us, not a favored few.

In the not so recent past, if your permit issuance was slow, you called someone high up with the city and got your permit expedited. If you had a code problem, you might get that handled if you knew whom to call and if you had clout. Loads of “experience” on a resume does not excuse, substitute for, nor erase this kind of behavior. It’s a question of character.

I am not the only one who sees what is needed in a city manager. The city just completed a blind survey of our employees (including police, fire-rescue, water-sewer, in fact all departments), with a high participation rate (over 60 percent).

Responding to what are the top qualities to look for in a prospective city manager, our staff said #1 “honesty,” and #2 “competence.” This is astonishing. There is no way around the implications here. We need an honest, competent manager. We need a manager who can see beyond the day-to-day problems, beyond the challenges of making the city government efficient and responsive to citizens’ needs, who can put his or her efforts into solving the biggest problem: bringing us together by force of personality and will.

Can this be done? Yes, it was proven last week with Josh Gruber, the city manager candidate. When he was shown the true Marco Island, as he and his wife circulated through the community meeting people at Publix, at restaurants, at the local schools, they came back with a glowing report of how warm and hospitable Marco Islanders are. At an official meet and greet over 140 citizens turned out to meet him and his wife, and when he appeared before City Council, a dozen citizens spoke positively about him. This is the Marco Island I know, the positive, confident, smiling Marco Island, full of citizens who deeply love this Island and realize how very special it is. We need a city manager who can lead the city with his or her honesty and competence and tap into that strong base of constructive energy to pull us all together.

We do have current problems the city needs to address: poor streets, poor storm-water management, poor parking, and poor fire-rescue facilities. And we have goals for improving our city: developing Veteran’s Community Park, improving water quality, and streamlining city services. I believe any of the candidates presented to us by our search consultant, with the assistance of our staff, could help us solve these. But the big problem is our community’s divisiveness. I believe only a very special person can bring this Island together. That’s the city manager Marco Island needs to hire.

Larry Honig, chairman, Marco Island City Council

Exhilarating

Councilors: It’s exhilarating when one finds an accurate reporting of a political event these days. I refer to Mr. Lance Shearer (Marco Eagle), and his “No City Manager” report in general, and his following statement in particular: “In extended remarks the councilors made it clear their discomfort was more with the process that left them choosing from a field of just one candidate than with any perceived shortcomings in Gruber’s qualifications.”

Councilors, I implore you to correct the procedural defect that has now twice permitted the unsavory field of one candidate. To minimize the chance of yet a third occurrence, it would not be unreasonable to stipulate that the final city manager selection shall be made from a field of no less than three finalists.

Please, check egos and mindsets at the Chamber entrance door and allow common sense to prevail.

Russ Colombo, Marco Island

Editorial misses mark

I was amazed at the recent Naples Daily News editorial “Kick” claiming: “Marco Island City Council has again botched its handling of the employment of a city manager.” And, I have no idea how they where able to determine he: “was the best available flesh-and-bones candidate in the nation.”

Yes, council could have done a better job in the hiring process. But, how does an experienced attorney with three years experience as an deputy county administrator with no direct oversight of police, fire, or utility operations (key responsibilities) become the best available candidate in the nation? These key responsibilities where pointed out, but that your editorial found them not to be an “articulated well-reasoned argument” that the candidate “wasn’t the best” – interesting.

And, saying: “its hired headhunting firm did its job in delivering the best available crop of semifinalists” is unbelievable! Yes, it did provide nine semifinalists to review – two of which it identified as second tier along with one having a background of abuse and another of harassment. And, two others were eliminated because the recruiter failed to adequately explain eliminating one candidate’s state income taxes would have brought his income within the stated salary range and whether another candidate’s resignation was only political or had any substance. Another was eliminated for lack of relevant experience – a key element in the final candidate not being hired. That left two – one of which withdrew.

Furthermore, although the recruiter did advertise the opening, nothing indicates he actually contacted (recruited) anyone. Is this what is considered “delivering the best available crop of semifinalists”? To me it’s supplying a list of advertising responders. And, let’s not forget the recruiter failed to supply examples of city manager job descriptions and evaluations which council requested.

And, implying that two councilors vote was “tainted by their prior allegiance” to the former city manager is not only disgraceful, but raises the question as to whether your editorial was “tainted” by your opinion of the candidate!

William Flasche, Marco Island

Marco Island follies

It’s difficult to get qualified people to run for City Council. It’s a thankless job without significant reward. Voters who elect councilors do not expect expertise in all areas of government, but they do expect that they are electing mature seasoned individuals who understand how to define a task and follow through to completion. There is no more important job of the City Council than to hire and supervise the city manager.

What was witnessed at the last meeting can best be described, as “Follies” at it’s best.

Let’s recap: The council hires the best professional search firm, approves the job description and reviews the resumes of the candidates that the search firm feels best suits the job description and the Marco Island environment.

From that list finalists are selected and invited to come to Marco for additional screening and personal interviews.

But wait -- only one candidate wants to come to Marco to continue the process.

Must be the process is flawed. We know we approved the process, but we didn’t get what some individual councilors wanted. So let’s throw the baby out with the bath water and start again, because we want a different result. Doesn’t matter that the sole candidate is highly qualified and wants to come to Marco. We’ll start again, incur more cost, continue the rubber band approach to city management with the finance director serving dual roles and probably not spending enough time in either.

So we continue the Marco Island Follies until …

Larry Magel, former Chairman and City Council member 2010-2013

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