ST. PETE BEACH — With varying degrees of enthusiasm, the City Commission picked five finalists, hoping one will become their next city manager.
The candidates will be interviewed Feb. 1 and a decision possibly made within a week.
Although the commission had a plethora of choices, some said they found it difficult to find five out of 79 applications worthy of interviewing.
Vice Mayor Melinda Pletcher even suggested at one point that the commission start over with a new consultant.
In the end, they picked five city manager candidates to interview.
“We do need to move forward on this,’’ said Commissioner Terri Finnerty. “We’ve got a couple of really good ones here.”
But before they discussed the candidates, the city’s attorney, Andrew Dickman, told the commission he was offended by a comment one candidate, former Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford, made to recruiter Colin Baenziger.
The recruiter called Dickman just before the commission meeting to report that Crawford had called him complaining that his candidacy had been “deep sixed” by the attorney.
It seems Crawford was upset when Baenziger asked him if he wanted to withdraw his candidacy. Some commissioners decided not to consider him after Dickman informed the commission about two recent lawsuits filed against Crawford.
“I wasn’t going to go that far but I am offended,” Dickman told the commission. “It is factually wrong. I never told you never to hire him.”
Baenziger supported Dickman, saying the attorney had “followed his proper role” in informing the commission about potentially negative information about a candidate.
The lawsuits involve Crawford’s role as a trustee for the estate of the late Patricia Shontz, a former mayor and commissioner in Madeira Beach.
They were filed by another trustee and a local business that claims Crawford improperly received money and property from the Shontz estate.
Meanwhile, the candidates that did meet the commission’s fancy will be invited to come to the city on Jan. 31 to tour the city and attend a public reception.
They will be interviewed privately by the commissioners the following morning and then publicly during a formal commission meeting that afternoon.
The commission could vote on its pick at that meeting or at its regular meeting the following Tuesday, Feb. 5 — or decide to continue the search.
Current City Manager Wayne Saunders is scheduled to retire in March.
Here are the candidates who will be invited to be interviewed:
• Jim Dinneen, county manager of Volusia County since 2007 and previously city manager for Dayton, Ohio. He lists as accomplishments eliminating Volusia County’s debt, reducing property taxes and increasing operational revenues. He holds master’s degrees in public administration and in urban and regional planning and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and sociology.
• Maria Marcinko, city manager for Altoona, Penn., since 2015. He previously served in manager positions in Wilkinsburg, Penn Hills and Zelienople, all in Pennsylvania. Her accomplishments, she said, include leading Altoona’s exit from the state’s financial recovery program while building the city’s fund balance to $10 million. She holds a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
• David Molgaard, city manager of Charleston, West Va., since 2003. He previously worked as a lawyer. He holds a Juris Doctor, master’s degree in industrial labor relations and a bachelor’s degree in English.
• Michelle Neuner, assistant city manager for Winter Park since 2008, She previously was budget and administrative services manager for Maitland. She holds a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
• Alex Ray, town manager in Miami Lakes since 2010 and previously building director for Miami Beach. Among his accomplishments are construction of a permanent government center for Miami Lakes. He holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and management and is working on a thesis in industrial engineering.
After the meeting, Crawford sent an email to the entire commission, the attorney and the recruiter denying that he had accused Dickman of improper conduct and explaining that he was only relaying a comment made to him by a St. Pete Beach resident.
“I really wanted to come to your city and I have the experience to be an excellent city manager in your community,” Crawford wrote, adding that he was “blindsided” when Baenziger asked if he wanted to withdraw his candidacy.