HIGH SPRINGS – Although commissioners narrowed a list of 31 city manager candidates down to just five Tuesday evening, the list has dwindled even further.

In a special meeting Jan. 17, High Springs commissioners narrowly picked five candidates from a list of 31 seeking the job of city manager.

Upon agreeing on the top five candidates, commissioners gave direction to Interim City Manager Jeri Langman to contact each candidate to inquire about their continued interest in the position and their willingness to travel for the interview process without reimbursement for travel expenses.  The commission also asked that interested candidates be willing to work without a severance package, at least initially.

Among those making the commission’s top five cut were Laura J. Hannah, W.D. Higginbotham, Jr., David L. Huseman, Brian Redshaw and Oel Wingo.

That list seems to have officially dropped to just three candidates as Hannah reportedly informed city officials Wednesday that she accepted another position.  She was the only candidate to receive three votes for further consideration.  Meanwhile, Huseman reportedly told city officials he would not accept the position without a severance package, seemingly nixing his bid for the job.

At least one of the remaining three candidates resides out of state.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Higginbotham was reportedly the only candidate willing to further interview based on the commission’s terms.

The candidates were initially culled and ranked by Paul Sharon, a Range Rider appointed by the Florida City and County Management Association to assist High Springs with finding its next city manager.

The salary range for the position is $50,000 to $72,500 annually with additional funds budgeted for a benefits package.

The list of 31 candidates was reduced to five through a process where each commissioner gave his or her top five candidates.  The top candidates with the most votes would be moved into the short list.  Hanna received three votes, while the remaining four top candidates received just two votes each.

Commissioners Sue Weller and Eric May each provided their top five list.  Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas initially provided just one candidate, Hannah, while Mayor Dean Davis offered just two candidates.

Commissioner Linda Gestrin did not provide any candidates, saying she believed the process was premature.

“I’m not in agreement that we’re doing this right now.

“We have a city manager.  We acted according to our charter.  Ms. [Interim City Manager Jeri] Langman is assisting us,” Gestrin said.

Gestrin said she wants the city to evaluate where it is and how it got there before hiring a permanent city manager.  She also echoed previous concerns with the council, manager form of government, saying it has resulted in a transfer of power from the commission to the city manager.

On Dec. 1, 2011, the commission approved an employment contract for Langman.  She replaced former interim city manager Jenny Parham who returned to her duties as city clerk.  Langman is to fill the position of interim city manager as a temporary employee with no insurance benefits.  She is being paid $4,000 monthly through budgeted funds for the city manager position.  Langman’s contract passed in a 3-2 vote with Davis, Barnas and Gestrin in favor of the contract, while commissioners May and Weller opposed.

The City of High Springs has been undergoing a search process for a permanent manager to replace former city manager Jim Drumm who resigned under pressure on Oct. 21, 2010.