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Spina takes wheel for second spin as Zephyrhills manager

Tribune correspondent
Published: August 15, 2014
Steve Spina, seated next to Zephyrhills City Clerk Linda Boan, addresses the city council after being hired as city manager.

ZEPHYRHILLS — Steve Spina was hired as Zephyrhills city manager this week, beginning his second tenure in the job that he retired from in 2011.

Spina had been serving as the interim city manager since May 1 when he was hired after the resignation of former City Manager Jim Drumm. Salary and other terms of Spina’s contract are still being worked out, said Director of Administrative Services Larry Strickland.

As interim city manager, Spina had agreed to work for $8,000 a month with benefits and a $35 a month phone allowance. Drumm was making about $97,000 annually when he left.

The Zephyrhills City Council voted 4-1 to offer the job to Spina at Monday’s council meeting.

City Councilman Kent Compton was the lone dissenting vote, citing the need to continue with a city manager search.

Compton said that his opposition had nothing to do with his opinion of Spina, but that he thought it was unfair that the “little guy” had to respond to an advertisement and fill out an application and go though a process while the “big guy” with a larger salary did not.

“I consider the process of looking for a city manger to be money well spent,” he said. “I consider it to be the cost of doing business I consider it to be, in the long term, benefiting the city of Zephyrhills.”

The council’s decision came as it prepared to approve options for conducting a city manager search. Mayor Gene Whitfield, who was to head a selection committee made up of him, former Mayor Cliff McDuffie and former City Councilman Clyde Bracknell, recommended that Spina be hired instead of conducting a search for other candidates.

“I’d like to offer another option,” Whitfield said. “We have had seven city managers throughout the history of Zephyrhills, which began in 1974. Of those seven city managers, two of them have been hired through a process like we’re about to set up. Five of them have been direct hire.”

He said that the city managers brought in through the search process have been unknown to the community and together lasted four years.

The other five who served 36 years were known and appointed by the council.

Whitfield said that Spina has been in the community for 32 years, served the city for a total of 24 years, 15 years as city manager, and he knows the city and its issues. He pointed out that there has been immediate improvement in communication with the city council, improved morale among the city employees and that most of the council had indicated that Spina would probably be the next city manager once the search is over.

He also noted that the council had no obligation by law to advertise or search for a city manager and that the search for Drumm cost the city $5,700.

Whitfield added: “Therefore with all that said, I’d like to forgo the search process and I’d like to recommend to the council that they hire Dr. Spina tonight as city manager.”

Councilman Lance Smith made the motion that Spina be hired; Councilman Ken Burgess seconded the motion.

Spina thanked the council, saying it was an honor, and told Compton that he understood his position on the issue.

Spina originally came to the city as city planner in 1987 after serving as the editor of the Zephyrhills News.

He was promoted to the city manager position after serving as interim for three months when Nick Nichols died in January 1996.

After retiring from city government, Spina took a teaching position with the University of South Florida.

Spina recently applied for the position of assistant county administrator for Pasco County but was not selected for the job.