HIGH SPRINGS - The future of the High Springs city manager search appears to be moving forward on one hand but headed toward a stall on the other. That's after a workshop Thursday in which commissioners met with Paul Sharon, a Range Rider appointed by the Florida City and County Management Association to assist High Springs with finding its next city manager.
Of the 31 candidates, Sharon found nine who meet the criteria set by the commission several months ago and that he would recommend. On Thursday, he said he could easily pare it down to four or five candidates, but suggested that commissioners do so instead.
While some commissioners were attempting to nail down a process for selecting a city manager, others weren't so sure it was the right move.
Vice Mayor Bob Barnas said there was only one candidate on the list with whom he was interested in speaking. Commissioner Eric May named four possible candidates, one of whom was the same as the one named by Barnas. Commissioner Sue Weller provided a list of three candidates, one of whom was the same as that provided by May.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Linda Gestrin did not appear ready to move ahead with the process. "I feel like this is even premature," said Gestrin. "Until we assess what went wrong with the last 10 years, and with the problems we have, I don't want to bring anybody else in here until we know for sure where we're at, what we need to do and what caused it."
"We have a city manager right now, who is an interim...and I feel like this is premature," she said.
Davis said he agreed with Gestrin, but also said he had a list of four candidates he would be willing to consider, although that list was not immediately available.
Starting off discussion at the workshop, Davis said, "We don't have any particular way we're going to do it. We're not even sure we're going to do it, yet. We don't know when we're going to do it."
In a statement that hinted where the city manager search may be headed, referring to the workshop agenda, Barnas said, "It doesn't say end the process....while I think that might be a good idea, we can determine to end the process if we can't get past the next step. The next step to me is finding some people."
Some commissioners also said they disagreed with Sharon's suggestion that local candidates and candidates who held political positions, such as mayor, not be considered for the post.
"You don't need another political voice in your ear, you need a professional voice," Sharon said of political candidates.
"Local candidates often do not bring what you are looking for to the table. That is an objective professional point of view.
"By one's nature, someone who has roots in the community is bound to have subjective judgments about certain issues," said Sharon.
As for a selection process, Sharon suggested the commission develop a list of four or five candidates, and then conduct standard interviews, asking each of them the same set of questions. In a second round of interviews, Sharron said, the commission could have a less rigorous question and answer session with each candidate to determine if the "chemistry" is right. As a next step, he suggested the commission narrow the list down to its top candidate and begin negotiations.
A special meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 17 to select the top candidates and determine what, if any, travel expenses the commission will cover to bring in prospective city managers for an interview.