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Cape Council members to individually shortlist city manager applicants

By Staff | May 5, 2020

Cape Coral City Council will take a direct role in culling candidates for the municipality’s next top administrator.

Council, after lengthy debate Monday, decided on the process it will use to winnow down the consultant-collected field of 60-plus applicants for the city manager.

Instead of cutting the consultant-provided list of 11 to five at Monday’s meeting, each council member will submit a list of five candidates to the City Clerk and Colin Baenziger & Associates, the firm conducting the search for the city, by Friday.

The council decided on that process in a 7-1 vote as a compromise after two previous motions on how to proceed deadlocked and so failed 4-4.

Councilmember Jessica Cosden brought the matter forward for discussion. The agency, which received 63 application packets, narrowed the field to 11 candidates from which the consultant suggested council collectively pick five to interview. The consulting firm suggested using, initially, a ranking card with each council member ranking each of 11 semi-finalists.

However, some council members believed the agency’s list left something to be desired.

Councilmember John Gunter was among them, saying very few met the criteria he thought should be used to select the new manager.

“I saw a couple people who met the criteria, but not many. This is the biggest decision we have to make on our tenure on city council,” Gunter said. “I saw the 63 applicants and there were some who had more experience than those 11. For me to come up with five will be tough.”

Gunter, who said he was looking for comparable experience, found support from Councilmember John Carioscia, who said he only found four candidates, while others seemed irrelevant.

“Corrections officials don’t interest me. CEOs of private companies don’t interest me. City managers with 200 employees or $5 million budgets don’t interest me,” Carioscia said.

Mayor Joe Coviello said there were two or three on his list that he really liked and seemed happy with those choices.

“I scored two of the candidates very high and we don’t need five candidates, we only need one,” Coviello said. “I don’t want these candidates to slip through our fingers. This is the first step to narrow things down.”

Gunter motioned to wait a week to decide on the five finalists, and wanted to include those who were not named on the Baenziger list.

Cosden said that if Council did that, they could have as many as 40 candidates without a clear mandate on any of them. She added that time was of the essence.

“The virus changed the timeline. It makes sense to do this now because we don’t know what the future will look like,” Cosden said.

“We have 28 weeks to find a new city manager. I’m only asking for one,” Gunter said.

The vote ended in a 4-4 stalemate, with Coviello, Cosden, Nelson and Welsh dissenting.

When a motion was made to hold the vote to select the five finalists, it also deadlocked 4-4.

Gunter came up with a compromise to have council members each select five candidates, with a deadline of 3 p.m. Friday. Those selections will be given to the City Clerk to tabulate and to Baenziger, so the consulting firm can do background checks on those who were not on the original list.

Councilmember Lois Welsh was the lone dissenting vote as the final method was approved after more than two hours of discussion.

Candidates included on Colin Baenziger & Associates’ list of semi-finalists are:

* Roy Coley: Public Works Director for Miami Beach, FL, (population 92,307) since 2015.

* Anne Fritz: ChiefFinancial Officer for the City of St. Petersburg, FL (population 260,999) since 2010.

* Terry Hanson: Assistant Planning and Data Analytics Director for the City ofFort Worth, TX (population 895,008) since 2015.

* Rob Hernandez: Deputy City Manager for Fort Lauderdale, FL (population 182,595).

* Greg Horwedel: Deputy County Administrator for Hillsborough County, FL (population 1.472 million) since 2014

* Joe Kerby: County Administrator for Benton County, OR (population 93,053) since 2017.

* Gregg Lynk: Most recently City Manager for Palm Bay, FL (population 111,657) for three years.

* Rob Perry: Most recently worked for the City of Albuquerque, NM (population 560,218). He was the ChiefAdministrative Officer for seven years and the City Attorney for

one year.

* Leonard Sossamon: Most recently County Administrator for Hernando County, FL (population 186,553) for seven years.

* Bob Stowe: Currently an Economic Development Consultant. Prior to this he was the City Manager for Bothell, WA (population 46,657) for eleven years and the City Manager for Mill Creek, WA (population 16,655) for ten years.

* Kenny Young: Most recently worked for Loudoun County, VA (population 413,538). He was the Assistant County Administrator for five years and a Senior Project Manager for three years.

The successful candidate will replace City Manager John Szerlag, who is set to retire in November after more than eight years in the position.