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Friday, May 25, 2018
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City commissioners unhappy with consultant’s short list for city manager

PLANT CITY – City commissioners voiced varying degrees of displeasure with a consultant’s list of nine finalists for city manager.

Veteran Commissioner Mike Sparkman had the strongest words for The Mercer Group’s short list.

“I am completely disgusted. This is trash. This junk is a waste of my time,” he said.

Five of the nine finalists live in Michigan, which didn’t sit well with Sparkman and the other four commissioners, who say they prefer candidates from the Southeast.

“I’m disappointed in the number of Michigan applicants,” Commissioner Billy Keel said.

Sparkman said he was concerned that some of the candidates on the short list haven’t been at their current jobs very long.

Commissioners asked for copies of the resumes for the approximately 70 applicants for the position so they can see if any other candidates might be worthy of an interview. They also wanted to accept any late arriving resumes.

Commissioners said they have a practical reason to try to find candidates in or near Florida: The city won’t have to pay huge travel costs for prospects that commissioners want to interview in person.

W.D. Higginbotham Jr., senior vice president of The Mercer Group in Seminole, said it was a coincidence that five candidates from Michigan made his final cut. He said many of the resumes submitted following a nationwide search were from Michigan.

He said he tapped the strongest candidates based on their experience in such areas as budgeting, economic development and historic preservation. Those areas of expertise and others would be required for the Plant City job, he said.

“I didn’t look at where they came from. I looked at their qualifications,” he said.

He spent one to two hours interviewing each of the best candidates, he said.

The city is paying The Mercer Group a total of $12,500 for helping find a city manager to replace Greg Horwedel, who left in April to become deputy county manager. Retired City Manager David Sollenberger is serving as interim until a permanent replacement is selected.

The nine finalists submitted by the consultant, in alphabetical order, include:

• Scott A. Adkins, city manager of Roseville, Mich.

• Paul J. Brake, city manager, Grand Blanc, Mich.

• Robert J. Bruner, interim city manager, Mount Clemens, Mich.

• William J. Cooper, former city manager, Hamtramck, Mich.

• James D. Drumm, former city manager, Zephyrhills

• Eric R. Johnson, director of Strategic Planning and Grants Management Department, Hillsborough County

• Heath T. Kaplan, interim city manager, Muskegon, Mich.

• Wayne Saunders, finance director, Port Orange

• Gary P. Schimun, chief administrative officer, Pembroke Pines

The position pays $120,000 to $135,000 per year. City commissioners plan to talk about the city manager candidates at their next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday July 28.

Sparkman said commissioners would like to hire a new city manager by the end of September. The 77-year-old Sollenberger, who is being paid $2,500 per week, has said he doesn’t have any interest in taking the job on a permanent basis.

Twitter: @dnicholsonTBO

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