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Stewart top choice for Beach manager job

By Staff | Jan 23, 2010

After a long day of one-on-one interviews, town tour, a public interview and notification that he was the top choice for the Fort Myers Beach interim town manager job, former Cape Coral city manager Terry Stewart finished Thursday night with an invitation to FMB Councilman Tom Babcock’s home for what was called “Phase 1” of a negotiation process.
Phase 1 ended at 1 a.m. Friday, officials said.
Although negotiations are still in the initial stages, it looks like the Beach has its manager.
“They managed to complete what Tom referred to as Phase 1, which is just the basic details of the contract,” said Fort Myers Beach Town Clerk Michelle Mayher. “They conferred with (Town Attorney) Anne Dalton and (Director of Finance) Evelyn Wicks. They put together an employee agreement, and are expected to re-read it today with rested eyes. The next step will be to fill in some of the more intimate details.”
The results of the details may not be known until after the weekend.
Stewart culled the top spot during a vote taken at a special meeting Thursday evening.
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 rankings 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.
Babcock, who is the council’s representative for the negotiation process, began talking with Stewart soon after the vote to see if would 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.
Babcock said 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 as 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.”