Moore Haven narrows manager candidates list to 5

MOORE HAVEN — By choosing applicants whose résumés all members said they liked, the Moore Haven City Council has narrowed its list of nine candidates for the city manager post to five on Tuesday night, directing City Clerk Maxine Brantley to begin contacting the finalists to set up interviews with the full council.

As Mayor Bret Whidden asked each council member to list his or her top four or five choices, the names of Vince Akhimie, Richard Giroux, Sarah Catala, David Miller and H. Randall Dilling, mentioned most often among the council, emerged to the forefront.

Councilwoman Pat Lucas went first, saying, “What I looked for is director-of-utilities knowledge because that’s our cash cow.” She said William Lawrence and Timothy James Day were also among her picks, but they did not make the finalists list.

Councilman Jake Eighner said, “I looked for people who’d been in control of a lot of work force and had management experience, not just with employees but hands-on knowledge also.” He had Mr. Day among his choices, too.

Mayor Whidden said he wanted “the one with the most and varied experience,” pointing to Mr. Akhimie who, he said, “has a helluva résumé.” Messrs. Lawrence and Day also were on his list.

Vice Mayor Dave McGee said, “I looked for management in utilities and for business experience and work with grants and stuff.” His list contained most of the finalists except Ms. Catala.

Councilman Marc Decker said he paid attention to budgeting experience and looked for “how many people they had around them, and how often they moved around in jobs,” mentioning three of the five who became finalists.

After they’d arrived at the list of five, Mayor Whidden said: “The interviews should be with the five council members and them. I think we should set a date and allow a half-hour or 40 minutes for each.”

City Attorney Steve Ramunni noted that the meetings would have to be after the holidays since at least one applicant would be coming from out of state, and the mayor said that “we’re probably going to have to split them up, so do your best to try to get one date that works for them, or two dates,” addressing Clerk Brantley.

In other business matters at their Dec. 5 meeting, the council:

• Approved 3 percent merit raises for employees as recommended by the department heads, Clerk Brantley, Public Works Director Jerri Lynn Schlueter, Water Plant Supervisor Sam Briefman and Code Enforcement Officer Kevin Bryant. After some discussion, it was clarified that the raises were to be retroactive to the beginning of the new fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 1) and would also be granted to the department heads themselves. The council approved Christmas bonuses to the staff as well.

• Discussed signage in the city at more length than it had previously after Ms. Schlueter reported on what she’d learned from conversations with Florida Department of Transportation officials about getting permits for signs to be erected on the state right of way along U.S. 27 through town. The city wants to draw attention to the new bait and tackle shop that will be opening this month at the municipal marina complex but has learned that FDOT will not allow signs for city facilities that are being operated for profit.

Some council members and Mayor Whidden were disappointed in what Ms. Schlueter said FDOT officials would allow and asked her to relay other questions to them, or to invite someone from the department to speak at a council meeting on the topic. Mr. Whidden noted, however, that FDOT representatives who attend such local meetings never are empowered to make decisions and said the council might have to act on its own to get more traffic off U.S. 27 to the city’s riverwalk, municipal facilities and business district by erecting its own signs on city-controlled land.

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