Stewart top choice for Fort Myers Beach manager job
The Fort Myers Beach Town Council selected former Cape Coral city manager Terry Stewart as its top choice for interim town manager at a special meetingThursday evening.
Negotiations will begin immediately to see if he’s the right person from a financial standpoint, officials said.
In a council member by council member ranking process, with 1 being the top selection and 4 being the last selection, Stewart received 10 cumulative votes to become the top-ranked candidate. The rest of the ranking featured former Seminole County and Volusia County Manager Cynthia Coto as the council’s No. 2 choice with 11 cumulative votes; former Lee County Manager Don Stilwell with 13 votes; and former Davie (Fla.) Manager and Monroe County Administrator Tom Willi with 16 votes.
Stilwell did receive two first-place votes among the council members (while the other three candidates had one apiece), but the majority vote did not apply since three No. 1 votes were needed.
According to Councilman Tom Babcock, who is the council’s representative for the negotiation process, he plans to begin talking with Stewart as soon as possible to see if he is willing to accept a salary in the lower range of the expected $130,000 to $160,000 a year that has been discussed. If the negotiations fail with Stewart, then Coto, the second-ranked cumulative vote-getter, will be at the table for negotiations with Babcock.
“If we are lucky the negotiations will begin tonight,” said Babcock. “If Terry is willing to come back (to council chambers), then we’ll start the process. Hopefully, the decision will be immediate. If we come to terms that are agreeable to us and to him, it will require confirmation at our next regular meeting on Feb. 1.”
Babcock further stated that if council accepts the terms of the contract with the candidate, Stewart would be seated in the manager’s seat at the Feb. 1 meeting and the interim.
The format for the special meeting involved each candidate being brought into the room on an individual basis by retiring interim town manager Jack Green. Each candidate was then asked to give an up-to-three-minute self- introduction, followed by answering a question (the same that was asked to each candidiate) from each council member and a up-to-five minute wrap-up regarding any questions, feelings or assurances of their capabilities.
Stewart, who stated he has worked in local government for 40 years, responded that he was an out-of-the-box thinker on one question; the ability to have an outstanding relationship with the county when asked
about the most pressing priority issue that needed attention; greatest stability when asked about the single biggest exposure to budget; tourism when asked about the town’s greatest asset and greatest
liability; and mentoring, delegating and coaching “because I started out as a laborer,” when asked how he would get staff and community to work together.
His wrap-up comments included looking forward to being a successful candidate.
“I hope the answers you received can be received in a positive way,” said Stewart. “If I am not the successful candidate, I hope I can help out in some way.”