Temple Terrace council lays out desires for new city manager

W.D. Higginbotham said he expects to have a group of finalists by late May.
W.D. Higginbotham said he expects to have a group of finalists by late May.
Published April 14 2016
Updated April 14 2016

TEMPLE TERRACE — City Council members told a recruiter last week what they want in a new city manager.

Several mentioned redevelopment experience, budgeting experience and, as council member Eddie Vance said, someone who has worked with "a city with financial constraints.'' Vance also wants someone able to work with the School Board to improve neighborhood schools.

Council member Grant Rimbey seeks strong negotiation skills and prefers that the candidate have credentials from International City/County Management Association.

"I don't want a yes man,'' council member Cheri Donohue said.

Taking notes was W.D. Higginbotham, vice president of the Mercer Group Inc., the firm the city hired for $14,750 to find a replacement for City Manager Gerald Seeber.

Higginbotham said he expects to have a list of finalists for the council to consider by late next month.

Seeber, who is paid $142,900 per year, retires May 1, but left early on paid leave under a special agreement with the City Council.

Mayor Frank Chillura had complained in a February meeting that communication between him and Seeber had broken down. He criticized the city manager for sending out an important notice to city employees without letting Chillura know in advance.

Some city employees were alarmed over the notice, in which Seeber stated the city manager has a right to change regulations governing city employees. City Attorney Mark Connolly confirmed the right.

So far, no changes have been made to the regulations.

The council appointed community development director Charles Stephenson as interim city manager as the search firm looks for a permanent manager.

Stephenson was tapped after Bob Gordon, former public works director, turned down the offer. Retired City Manager Kim Leinbach, also contacted, was unavailable because he has taken the job as interim city manager of Mount Dora.

Chillura asked Higginbotham to make sure that the job prospect has not activated the Florida employees' Deferred Option Retirement Program, indicating he or she would be retiring within a few years.

Higginbotham, who has served as city manager of Madeira Beach, Gainesville and two other Florida cities, assured the mayor and council that he would weed out candidates who seem more interested in the job as a short stopover before retirement.

"I know when people come here to retire. It has nothing to do with age,'' Higginbotham said.

If a candidate says something like, " 'Florida is a great place to retire,' our interview is over,'' he said.

Contact Philip Morgan at pmorgan@tampabay.com.