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City manager candidates narrowed to short list

BY JENNIFER CABRERA / SEPTEMBER 5, 2019

During the September 5 Gainesville City Commission meeting, the commission accepted a short list of City Manager candidates from their consultant and added two more, at the request of commissioners. Here is the short list:

Harry Black was most recently the City Manager for Cincinnati, OH (population 298,800), for 4 years. He has been praised for helping to make the city financially solvent again after a $500 million budget shortfall. He resigned in April 2018 after it became clear that there were enough votes on the city commission to fire him because of Black’s “unprofessional treatment of employees.” The city later paid him $370k in a settlement to avoid a lawsuit.

Patrick Burtch has been the City Manager of Jackson, MI (population 32,704) since 2011. He is proud of reorganizing the administrative structure of city government and revitalizing Jackson’s downtown. 

Craig Coffey was most recently the County Administrator for Flagler County, FL (population 110,510) for twelve years. He is most proud of playing a leading role in the turnaround of the Flagler County Airport. Coffey resigned in January 2019, a few days before a scheduled meeting to discuss firing him, on the condition that he received his full severance. Two commissioners had brought up complaints about Coffey in a December meeting, and several local unions held votes of no confidence in December. 

Reginald Edwards was added to the list by Commissioner Gail Johnson. Edwards is the Deputy City Manager of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota (population 30,104), where he developed and led a city-wide inclusion and diversity program.

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Beau Falgout was added to the list by Commissioner Helen Warren. Falgout has been the Assistant City Manager and Interim City Manager of Palm Coast, FL (population 86,516) for about a year. He has moved his way up in Palm Coast government for 12 years, starting with a Planner position in 2007. Falgout was one of two final candidates for the position of Palm Coast City Manager but lost the vote, 3-2. He is the only candidate who does not have at least a master’s degree; he has completed all but the thesis of his Master of Urban and Regional Planning from UF.

Lee Feldman was most recently the City Manager for Fort Lauderdale, FL (population 180,072) for seven years. He is most proud of his ability to change the nomenclature of governance. Officials often refer to the population as “residents”, “taxpayers”, “constituents”, “voters” and “customers”. That leads to a transactional relationship with the City. Mr. Feldman much prefers the word “neighbor.” Feldman was fired in October 2018 when the city decided to “head in a new direction” after the election of new commissioners who criticized Feldman for taking too casual of an approach to infrastructure problems. 

Anne Fritz has been the CFO for the City of St. Petersburg, FL (population 260,999) since 2010. 

She is most proud that the financial management of her cities has been recognized by the bond rating agencies. 

Janice A. Jackson was most recently the Administrator for Augusta, GA (population 201,800) for five years. She has been praised for her honest and directness in communicating with citizens, and her greatest success is building public trust and confidence in the governments that she served. She resigned in April 2019. Jackson had clashed with some commissioners  but had never been reprimanded by the commission. Her resignation was paired with the resignation of the General Counsel and was suspected to be a deal between commissioners who wanted to fire her and other commissioners who wanted to fire the General Counsel.

Howard Lazarus has been the City Administrator for Ann Arbor, MI (population 120,782) since 2016. Previously, he was the Public Works Director for Austin, TX (population 947,890) for eight years. He is most proud of developing programs that provide opportunities for community and neighborhood organizations to affect public improvements and sustainability programs by sharing in the costs of these efforts. Lazarus recently received a raise from the city council.

JJ Murphy has been the Assistant City Manager for the City of Palmdale, CA (population 157,519) since 2018. Previously, he was the City Manager for Hobbs, NM (population 37,118) for six years. He is most proud of is most proud of a project called A Healing Field to honor those who lost their lives on September 11th and afterwards in fighting the War on Terror. The consultant’s report states: “It should be noted that Mr. Murphy has some bloggers who have not always appreciated his work and who may contact you with any number of unfounded allegations against him.” Murphy was also a candidate in Gainesville’s City Manager search in 2016. 

Fred Murry has been an Assistant City Manager of Gainesville, FL (population 128,460 and 1,300 employees) since 2007. He considers his biggest achievement to be the development of the remediation plan for the Cabot/Koppers Superfund site in Gainesville. Murry submitted his resignation in November 2018 during the tenure of City Manager Anthony Lyons but rescinded the resignation after Lyons resigned.

Tony O’Rourke was most recently the City Administrator for Cañon City, CO (population 16,539) for three years. Prior to this, he was the City Manager for Yakima, WA (population 93,476) for four years and the City Manager for South Lake Tahoe, CA (population 21,307) for two years. He is proud of leading several cities through the transformation of traditional government bureaucracies to ones that work better and faster while costing less. He resigned from Cañon City after being placed on administrative leave. The city council did not state why he was placed on administrative leave and issued a statement: “Any future inquiries by prospective employers will be provided with a response by the city’s Human Resource Department that states O’Rourke was an employee in good standing during his time with the city.”

Bill Shanahan was most recently the County Manager for York County, SC (population 266,439), serving in that role for six years. He is proud of being able to manage and reorganize three departments that were in trouble when he arrived in Augusta, GA. The consultant’s report states, “His ability to guide and create consensus allowed what started as a major issue to become a complete reorganization that benefited the City.” Shanahan resigned in June 2019. No reason was given, but Shanahan had been applying for other jobs

Leonard Sossamon most recently served as the County Administrator for Hernando County, FL (population 186,553) for seven years. He considers his biggest achievement to be the development of the Concord Regional Airport. Sossamon was fired in January 2019 after a commissioner complained about misallocation of millions of dollars by a budget manager who was hired and subsequently fired by Sossamon. 

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  • Thank you for the article. A Michigan newspaper story popped up yesterday in a kind of unrelated search that raises the question of why the consultant would list Mr. Burtch at all. Jackson, MI, is a postindustrial town that has lost population since its peak of 55,000 in 1930. It had a corset-manufacturing industry in the 1920s that went belly-up. And then there’s this, from the local news article:

    Burtch, 55, started as Jackson’s assistant city manager in 2011 and became city manager in 2012. He had been Dundee village manager for 23 years. Burtch has said previously he hoped to finish his career in Jackson.

    “I like Jackson. I’m committed to Jackson,” Burtch said. “I have a home here in the city, all those things. But after a while, you start thinking, ‘How much longer is it worth your health to be constantly bombarded with things?’ You’re trying to do the right thing, and no matter what, some people misunderstand that.”

    https://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/2019/08/ann-arbor-jackson-top-officials-among-candidates-for-florida-city-manager-job.html

    As for Palm Coast, it is a suburb without a city, built in wilderness by a developer in 1969 and incorporated in 1999. It has no real center or history that would remotely relate to Gainesville other than being in Florida.

    It’s unfortunate for Gainesville that five of the seven current commissioners have no experience with a real city manager. That is a serious problem with long repercussions. In Gary Gordon’s letter in the Sun in May, he offers them some background and suggestions. https://www.gainesville.com/opinion/20190509/letters-to-editor-for-may-9-2019

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