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Discussion on city manager search to continue

By Staff | Dec 15, 2009

Cape Coral inched closer to having a permanent city manager Monday night, but no major decisions will be made by council until the board members return from their holiday break on Jan. 11.
Even then, they’re only expected to have compiled lists of duties, responsibilities and job skills they want from their new employee, but won’t vote on how to pursue the new city manager until Jan. 25.
While a consensus wasn’t reached on the pursuit methods, it seemed a popular idea to utilize the city’s Human Resources Department to head the search.
“I don’t think we need to spend $25,000 to do what we’re already equipped to do,” said District 4 Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz. “I’d like to invest in our own people to do the initial search.”
Chulakes-Leetz is referring to the estimated $20,000 to 25,000 it would cost the city to employ a firm to conduct a nationwide search.
Mayor John Sullivan supported the price of a national search, saying the council needs to keep all of its options open, and that the price of the search could be easily recouped by a candidate with a keen eye for cost cutting.
“The amount of money we’re talking about could be saved in one decision, and be saved many times,” Sullivan said.
What city council did not get closer to was whether a local candidate, or someone from outside Cape Coral, is best suited for the position.
The question, too, of whether a so-called “change agent,” or someone with traditional city manager training and experience is needed, was not decided.
There are already several interested candidates — including former mayor Eric Feichthaler and local businessman Gary King.
District 1 Councilmember Marty McClain said the city is going to need someone with government management background, and that a candidate with a pure business background wouldn’t have the required skill set.
District 2 Councilmember Pete Brandt, who has been vocal about his desire to see a “change agent” take the position, thinks that person is already living in the Cape.
“We have enough talent locally that we don’t need the expense of going national,” Brandt said. “Someone from outside won’t be able to step in and have an immediate impact.”
Interim City Manager Carl Schwing has garnered some support from city council to stay in the job.
Councilmember Eric Grill, who represents District 5, stressed the importance of council making a decision soon, but said he supports Schwing and his efforts so far.
“As of right now, the job is Mr. Schwing’s to lose, in my opinion,” Grill said. “I wouldn’t call him a change agent, but he’s got some good ideas that will save us money.”