TARPON SPRINGS — Mark LeCouris has six months to prove that he can do the job as city manager.
If things go well, he could get the post permanently. If not, commissioners said Tuesday, they'll look for someone else to fill the job.
LeCouris, the city's police chief since 1993, has been interim city manager since Ellen Posivach resigned in early May.
In June, LeCouris, 51, offered to stay on indefinitely without a pay raise, to save the city money.
LeCouris makes $112,000 annually and doesn't receive pension contributions because he's enrolled in the city's deferred retirement option plan. Posivach had been making $153,863 a year in salary and benefits.
This is LeCouris' second stint as interim city manager.
In 1998, he had the title for six months after the departure of Costa Vatikiotis. LeCouris said he had to play catch-up to stay on top of things during that period. But he said the experience he gained then — and during his time as acting director of administrative services — prepared him for the job now.
LeCouris said Wednesday that he wants to spearhead a collaborative effort to revitalize downtown and the Sponge Docks to pull the city out of an economic slump caused partially by declining tourism revenue. And he wants to lead the way on major projects in the works, such as a $45-million water treatment plant and a large, mixed-use complex planned for the southern edge of downtown.
"It's imperative during this period, no matter what happens after it, that we're moving forward, so we're at a point in six months where we need to be," he said. "It's almost like passing the baton in a relay race. You don't stop and analyze it. You keep running."
A Tarpon Springs native, LeCouris is widely known to residents. His father, Blaine LeCouris, spent two years as city manager in the 1980s after 10 years as police chief.
Commissioner Chris Alahouzos made the motion Tuesday night to give LeCouris a trial run. Commissioner Peter Dalacos, who was highly critical of Posivach, said he has been getting positive reports from residents and staff members since LeCouris took over three months ago.
"In my communications with directors and people that have associations with Mark on a day-to-day basis, … it's like night and day," Dalacos said.
Commissioner Susan Slattery said she wanted more time to evaluate LeCouris before considering outside applicants.
Mayor Beverley Billiris and Vice Mayor Robin Saenger dissented in the 3-2 vote. Both said it was critical to explore every option to make sure they found the best candidate for the job.
Commissioners didn't discuss Tuesday whether to look for a new police chief. But Billiris suggested at last week's budget workshop that the commission leave that position vacant and split the duties between the department's two captains.
Billiris said the department has been running smoothly since LeCouris has been spending more time at City Hall.
"That would save us some money. … I don't think it would be any big stress to that department," Billiris said.