During a process frequently described as “frustrating” and “not easy” followed by a detailed discussion, St. Pete Beach Commission unanimously selected five candidates from a field of 79 for the personal interviewing phase of the search for a new city manager during a special meeting on January 22.
By analyzing over 1,000 pages of resumes and supporting documentation from applicants, each of the five commissioners brought their top selections to the meeting. Three had whittled the contenders down to the maximum of five names while two others felt that only three to four people were qualified to be invited to advance to the personal interviewing phase.
Recruiter Colin Baenziger and City Clerk Rebecca C. Haynes tallied the commissioners’ straw vote sheets to find that three applicants garnered from four to five votes.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t have more Florida candidates,” said Commissioner Ward Friszolowski. During an earlier meeting, commissioners had agreed one of their preferences was to select candidates who have strong experience with managing coastal communities that are popular with tourists.
Using her own ranking system, Commissioner Terri Finnerty assigned scores to each candidate from 0 to 10.
“I did get three good ones,” she said. “I was really pressed for a fourth one but I struggled for the fifth one.”
Mayor Alan Johnson said there was no rule that they had to select five finalists.
“I actually got very frustrated going through this because I kept getting hung up on a couple of the candidates,” said Vice Mayor Melinda Pletcher. “I’m very concerned about the quality of the candidates we have.”
Baenziger advised that “paper is paper. Until you meet the people, you won’t really know who that person is.”
One candidate was singled out during the discussion for having an unreadable resume.
“I gave him a zero,” said Finnerty. She said that in the past 20 years as a career-transitioning expert, she has developed about 3,000 resumes “so I know what to look for. The print was so small, I read it with a magnifying glass until I couldn’t read anymore. This is absolutely the worst resume I have ever seen in an executive search.”
At the end of the discussion, five candidates were selected to visit the city from Thursday, January 31 through Friday, February 1 to participate in a group tour, meet with members of the city staff and the public at receptions and go through a personal interview process that will begin with private one-on-one meetings with each commissioner.
In a public workshop meeting held at City Hall, 155 Corey Ave., on February 1 beginning at 2 p.m. commissioners, as a group, will interview each candidate.
Selected were, in alphabetical order, James Dinneen of Valusia County; Marla Marcinko of Altoona, PN; David Molgaard of Charleston, WV.; Michelle Neuner of Winter Park; and Alex Ray of Miami Lakes.
At about 4:30 p.m. on February 1, commissioners will reconvene in a public special commission meeting to address the action items of selecting a city manager and approving authorization to enter into negotiations with the selected candidate.
Wayne Saunders, who is the current city manager, plans to retire in March.
In another personnel matter, District 2 Commissioner Rick Falkenstein announced his resignation at the December 11, 2018 regular meeting. He told the Beach Beacon he was sorry to leave the commission but wanted to devote more time to his family.
At the January 8, 2019 regular meeting, commissioners approved Doug Izzo as the replacement and he was sworn in.
According to his official city biography, Rizzo has experience as the government affairs representative at the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce from 2009 to the present and served as a member of the city’s Planning Board from 2017 to 2018. He has worked in the city since 2009 and has lived there since 2013.
Izzo also qualified to run in the March municipal elections but is unopposed. Since Pletcher, the other incumbent is also running unopposed, the city will not be holding an election. Commissioners serve two-year terms.
Intersection Improvements Approved
At their January 8 regular meeting, five intersections associated with Maritana Drive east and west located near The Don CeSar, 3400 Gulf Blvd., commissioners approved an engineering study by George F. Young, Inc. that will be followed by mitigation work to be done by a concrete firm that is already under contract with the city.
For years, existing asphalt has been damaged when inland rainwater drains off the streets through a seawall, said Public Works Director Mike Clarke.
“Brackish water doesn’t do well with asphalt,” he said.
Pletcher agreed saying, “that area is in such desperate need of a resolution.”
Higher strength concrete pads resistant to salt measuring about 40 by 40 feet will be installed and “elevations will also be set so they are as perfect as they can be to flow water on this flat location,” said Clarke.
The improvements will cut down on the irritation of commuters, walkers and bicyclists because they will no longer need to navigate around and through “unraveled asphalt and pot holes,” he said.