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Indian Rocks Beach narrows field for new city manager

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — If first impressions count, former Treasure Island City Manager Chuck Coward will soon become city manager of Indian Rocks Beach.

But first, he and three other finalists for the job will be interviewed March 2 by the City Commission.

The interviews will begin at 10 a.m., with each lasting 30 to 45 minutes. When completed, the commission will reconvene to pick a leading candidate and a runner-up. The top candidate will be offered a contract and a yet-to-be-designated salary. If negotiations fail, the commission's second pick would then be offered a similar contract and salary.

Contract details and a salary range will be discussed at the commission's next regular meeting Feb. 26.

Out of 43 applications, the field was trimmed to nine by a professional volunteer group, Range Riders, and two local city managers.

Monday, the commission trimmed that list, naming four finalists. Coward was the unanimous choice to top the list, followed by Jeffrey Naftal. John Drago and Donald Lusk tied for third.

Coward was hired as Treasure Island city manager in 1997 and resigned in 2004, partly over disagreements with commissioners who he said were interfering with day-to-day operation of the city.

When Coward resigned, he said he didn't believe he and commissioners were moving in the same direction on a number of issues. He also was disappointed in his 3 percent raise, which brought his salary to $97,335.

Coward, who is retired, most recently worked as facilities director for St. Petersburg-based Mortgage Investors Corp. Prior to his post in Treasure Island, Coward served as city manager for Cherry Hills Village in Colorado. He holds a bachelor's degree in architecture and a master's in city management.

Drago most recently served as city administrator in Longwood, leaving after 10 years in the post because of a "change in commission."

He describes himself as an "achievement-oriented manager" with over 20 years of experience in municipal government. He holds both bachelor's and master's degrees in management.

Lusk, who is retired, most recently served for one year as town administrator in Redington Shores. He left when that town decided to return to a commission-style government.

Lusk has been village administrator in Angel Fire, N.M., and city manager in Holly Hill and Wilton Manors. He holds bachelor's degrees in psychology and political science.

Naftal was town manager of Juno Beach until his contract was terminated by a newly elected council. Previously, he was assistant city manager and assistant personnel director for Hallandale Beach. He has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in public and human relations management.

The eventual pick will replace interim City Manager Danny Taylor, who earlier turned down the permanent post and will return to his job as director of planning and zoning. Taylor was appointed after the sudden resignation of Steve Cottrell more than a year ago.

Indian Rocks Beach narrows field for new city manager 02/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 9:31pm]
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