Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Brooksville to appoint interim city manager, then search for permanent leader

BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville City Council will begin its search for a new city manager by first picking an interim manager. That person will oversee city government for several months while the council seeks a permanent replacement for Jennene Norman-Vacha.

Council members on Monday night agreed, for both searches, to enlist the aide of the Senior Advisors program, previously known as the Ranger Riders, which uses retired individuals who have served as government officials to help with management searches and issues related to public administration.

The council voted 4-1 last week to not renew the contract of Norman-Vacha, who had been with the city for 10 years. While she will stay on the payroll and continue to collect benefits through the end of her contract in June, the council removed her from her duties immediately.

They appointed community development director Bill Geiger as acting manager, and on Monday approved an 8 percent increase in his salary, which is $70,858 annually, while he serves in that role. Council member Natalie Kahler asked Geiger if he was willing to serve in that capacity, and he said he would serve as acting manager but was not interested in the job long-term.

Council members then expressed concern that having Geiger wear two hats for an extended period of time would spread him too thin, and they discussed options for how to hire Norman-Vacha's replacement.

Mayor Robert Battista suggested that the council choose among having a private company help the city search for a new manager, do the job themselves or bring the Senior Advisors in to assist. While council members discussed various pros and cons, including cost, the need for background checks on applicants and the level of involvement of the council members, they honed in on what they were really looking for in the short-term and permanent managers.

Battista said he preferred to see a city manager with Florida experience, and council members Betty Erhard and William Kemerer agreed.

Kahler said she could see the benefit of finding an interim manager who had some experience with the city, but Erhard disagreed. She said she was looking for someone unbiased, with a lot of energy and fresh eyes.

Council members noted that the interim manager would have to move the city through numerous complex issues, including the 2017-18 budget.

The council agreed to have Battista reach out to the Senior Advisors to help bring in someone as the interim manager and then continue to work with the group to find a permanent manager.

On a related issue, council member Joe Bernardini said he was concerned that the city's current information technology department, which has access to all of the city's records, is staffed by Norman-Vacha's husband, John Vacha.

Council members agreed that they should look at other options. Previously, the city used county information technology providers. But city officials publicly criticized that service after an email crash several months ago.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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