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Cape officials pleased with city manager candidate pool

By Staff | Feb 4, 2012

Cape Coral City Council members expect to be briefed one-on-one next week concerning the 69 candidates who have submitted applications in hope of becoming Cape Coral’s next city manager.

The search firm, Colin Baenziger & Associates, is expected to be in town on Monday, said Councilmember Marty McClain, who added that he has been told the firm’s principle is happy with the applicant pool.

“He will be here Monday to grab a few minutes with each of the council,” McClain said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

“He said there are some very, very qualified candidates in the bunch,” he added. “He was pleased with the response.”

Baenziger said Thursday he has made no formal appointments but will be in town to speak with council members, answer any questions, and will be present at Monday’s council meeting.

He is a happy with the quality of the applicants and is confident he will be ready to present his firm’s list of five recommended finalists and alternate by the agreed-upon deadline, Feb. 27.

“I think we’re going to be able to bring a good group of candidates forward,” he said, adding there should be some variety of backgrounds within the list.

The selection process will begin with a review of all the application packets. The goal is to find the best fit for Cape Coral’s specific, outlined objectives, Baenziger said.

The initial process should net 15 or so promising candidates. From there, the search firm will call the selected applicants with some preliminary questions. From the batch remaining, a formal vetting process will begin. That will include formal interviews with a standard set of questions as well as background checks to include employment and education verification, reference checks as well as credit, criminal and public records searches.

The finalists will be subsequently selected and submitted for council consideration.

The elected board can accept, modify or reject the short list. Interviews of those who pass council muster are expected to take place March 22 and 23 with a meet-the-public reception scheduled for the 23rd and a council vote set for March 26.

There are no applicants from within the city, however, there is at least one very familiar local name on the list.

Former Lee County manager Donald D. Stilwell is among those who have responded to the city’s advertisement for a new top administrator.

City officials contacted midweek said they had not had time for an in-depth perusal of the resumes.

Most said they will do that in the upcoming days with McClain saying he is looking forward to the results of Colin Baenziger’s efforts.

“What I’d like to do is look at his top 10 picks out of curiosity,” McClain said.

He added he does not, at present, plan to develop his own short list.

“That’s his job, that’s what we’re paying him for,” McClain said of the search firm.

Mayor John Sullivan was among those who said he had just received the resumes and so had not had time to go through them.

“I’m glad to see we have a good number, though,” he said. “It should give us an opportunity to pick a good one.”

He said he was not disappointed by the lack of in-city applicants.

“I think that it’s better to go outside,” Sullivan said. “We need someone with fresh, new ideas.”

His intention is to go through the entire package of resumes himself, the mayor said, adding he hopes his fellow council members will do the same.

“I’m going to look through that whole bundle and if I see someone who is not on that short list (to be submitted by the search firm) I will suggest council add them,” Sullivan said. “I think others will do the same, I hope so, anyway. If they see someone who they think will be a good fit, I hope they will be vocal about it.”

Councilmember John Carioscia also had just had time to do a quick perusal on Wednesday.

He said he did like what that preliminary glance showed – that there are a good number of applicants who have the type of experience he is looking for.

“No matter what their resume says, they must have city manager experience,” Carioscia said, adding that includes positions as a co or assistant city manager, or a similar position at a county level.

“If not, personally, I’m not going to give them a second look,” he said. “That train has left the station.”

Shortly after the city election in November, council opted to terminate the contract of former city manager Gary King. King brought to the position experience in the private sector, an attribute the previous council had said it sought when it hired him some 18 months before.

King’s lack of public sector experience came under fire by critics who also accused him of political involvement with one of the city’s factions.

“There’s quite a few,” Carioscia said of applicants with the type of public sector experience he is seeking. “There’s plenty of them.

“I’m optimistic,” he added. “We have a good pool.”

Under Cape Coral’s form of government, the city manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city – all staff, all departments, all projects. In addition, the manager is responsible for the implementation of all council policies, directives and priorities.

As outlined in the job packet on the city’s website, council is looking for a person with the background and expertise to address four primary challenges here in the Cape – financial, economic, infrastructure expansion and improving the city’s image.

The position will pay up to $195,000, plus “generous” benefits, according to the city’s employment packet for the position.