Moore Haven hires new city manager

The Moore Haven City Council voted Feb. 6 to hire David Miller of LaBelle as their new city manager at an $85,000 annual salary and with a six-month probationary period.

The council had conducted interviews of several finalists on the evenings of Jan. 22-23 and apparently already had agreed they liked Mr. Miller best. Consideration of his hiring was on their Tuesday night agenda right after approval of their Jan. 16 minutes, with Vice Mayor Dave McGee making a perfunctory motion to hire him contingent on negotiation of his compensation package and Councilman Jake Eighner seconding. Approval was unanimous.

Mr. Miller, 58, has worked for Waste Connections in LaBelle for eight years and, although he lacks any city management experience, was employed for several years by Hendry County government, having worked as an equipment operator in the road and bridge department as well as chief caretaker for the Hendry courthouse as a worker for the county maintenance department. Originally from the Buffalo/Rochester area of New York state, he and his wife, Arlene, live in LaBelle, will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in July and recently became grandparents.

They have two grown sons, both married, and their grandson is 16 months old.

The council members’ negotiation with Mr. Miller, who was present, came at the end of the meeting agenda. Mayor Bret Whidden asked him to come to the podium and said that during the council’s interview, “we all agreed that you had the position.

“We also agreed that it’s more than fair to the city and you and your employer now to give the two-week notice, which is very professional. In the interview that night, we talked about $75,000 starting, and Jake got to talking about a 90-day probationary period. I agreed with the $75,000 starting. I would like to be fair to the city and be fair to Mr. Miller because it’s going to take him a little bit to get a grasp on things, see what’s going on, see how we operate, I … think six months’ probation would be more appropriate, just to start with.”

He noted that would come with a city vehicle, adding that Mr. Miller could ask for a higher salary and provide his own transportation back and forth to work but would still have use of a city vehicle during the workday and for official functions.

Councilman Marc Decker said he agreed on the probation period, as did Mr. McGee. “I told you guys I wasn’t in favor of giving him a vehicle but I can be brought around to it,” Mr. Decker said. “Let’s hear what David has to say after you guys voice your opinion.”

Councilwoman Pat Lucas spoke up: “Well, we welcome you. We welcome you to our little city.”

Mr. Miller responded: “I haven’t said it yet, but I appreciate the opportunity very much. I’m really, really excited. I had a great time last night. It seemed like a nice hometown. That’s what I’m after.”

Ms. Lucas said, “You’ll like everybody, and I think you’ll do well. We have a good bunch of people here. We’re glad you’re here, and we hope you stay.”

Mr. Eighner then spoke. “I’m for the $75,000 with a vehicle or $85,000 without a vehicle and a six-month probation period. And as he climbs into this, he may want a longer probation period,” he said. “I think we’ve hired the right guy and I think we’ve all got confidence in him right now. That’s how I stand.”

Vice Mayor McGee agreed. “I was really impressed with his work ethics and commitment. I know that job down there, and that’s a load where he’s working now. So I’m really impressed with your resume and particularly your energy there. You did real good, and I’m looking forward to a lot of good things happening.”

Councilman Eighner said he’d like Mr. Miller to start March 1 if he accepted the job.

Mr. Miller, noting that March 1 falls on a Thursday, said he’d rather begin on that previous Monday and put in a full workweek. “I’m all for that and it’ll give me a couple of days before Chalo Nitka to at least get my feet wet. I will give my notice tomorrow morning.”

He also said he’d use his own vehicle to travel to and from work because he’d prefer the $85,000 annual salary; asked about insurance coverage (which starts 60 days after his employment); and noted he didn’t have a cellphone, which the city will provide.

When Councilwoman Lucas asked where his office would be, Mayor Whidden said, “Starting out, I think he needs to be down at the city warehouse.”

Other council members noted, “that’s where all the action is,” and Ms. Lucas said that way, city Public Works Director Jerri Lynn Schlueter, who works out of the warehouse, would be able to help him as he starts the job.

After a discussion of the two city vehicles available to him, Mr. Miller said he’d rather have the pickup truck used for code enforcement, “because I want to be out in the field.

“If I need to transport things or some of the guys need something, I could throw it in the bed. I want to be able to work.”
Councilman Decker quipped, “We’re going to put ‘City Manager’ and ‘Marshal’ on that truck,” and laughs filled the room.

The Glades County Democrat is published every Thursday.

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