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Cape to tackle manager replacement

By Staff | Nov 14, 2009

Terry Stewart resigned as Cape Coral’s city manager less than a week ago, but there’s already two local names that could throw their hat into the ring as potential replacements.
City council has yet to discuss the future of that position, but is expected to do so Monday for the first time.
The early question seems to be whether council should find someone locally — hence the two early prospects — or take its search nationwide, a move some estimate would cost the city upwards of $20,000.
Mayor John Sullivan — who campaigned heavily on a platform of reduced city spending — is hesitant to spend the cash to conduct the search, but said it would probably be in the city’s best interest to use all the tools at council’s disposal to make the best choice possible.
“I don’t mind doing things cheap, but I don’t think this is one of those things we should do cheap because it might hurt us in the long run,” he said.
Former Mayor Eric Feichthaler and Gary King, a retired senior vice president of a Boston-based financial service firm, are the two names that have been mentioned.
King said it might be premature to be discussing the future of the city manager position, as council has yet to have a preliminary discussion.
But he added that he would be interested in the job, and that the candidate should be someone from inside Cape Coral regardless of the final choice.
“That would be the advantage of a local person, someone who has local knowledge of our economy and the issues that are most important to us,” he said.
Feichthaler agreed with King regarding a local hire, but admitted the decision will indeed be a tough one for the new council.
Eyeing a potential run for a county commission seat in 2012, Feichthaler added that he abandon that idea if he were to be appointed to the city manager seat.
“I would consider my political career from a long-term perspective to be over,” he said. “I would not want to leave.”
Assistant City Manager Carl Schwing is acting as interim county manager until the position is filled.
Terry Stewart’s annual salary was $165,000. Schwing is still making his assistant manager salary of $142,00.
Sullivan said he didn’t object to Schwing as a long-term prospect, but said the city has to keep its options open.
Sullivan also said he has not had any major discussion with either King or Feichthaler, but said he has no major objections to either one.
King was a strong supporter of Sullivan’s during the campaign, fueling some early criticism of favoritism if King were to be tapped to fill the city manager’s seat.
Sullivan deflected that potential criticism by saying, “That’s the reason why we need to do a search.”
District Four Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said both council and the community needs to take time to evaluate Schwing’s performance, and not rush to make a decision, especially before the holidays.
He added that he plans to ask the council on Monday to wait before any major decision is made.
“It’s really not a time to endeavor an outside search, or changing our leadership, when so many staff members and citizens are going to be on vacations,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “Let’s let Mr. Schwing show us his merits, then move forward with the issue.”