Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Kenneth City manager job already getting interest

KENNETH CITY — Officials here haven't had a chance to discuss the hiring of their first town manager, but they've already gotten an application.

W.D. Higginbotham, 71, served as city manager of Madeira Beach from June 2008 to March 2011 when he resigned during a period of turmoil. Higginbotham has a certificate in accounting from Tulane University in New Orleans.

He has also managed the Florida municipalities of Surfside, Melbourne Beach and Gainesville. He served as a public finance adviser on the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Baghdad from December 2007 to April 2008. He is currently senior vice president of the Mercer Group in Seminole, where he lives. Mercer is a national managerial consulting firm that provides services to federal, state and local governments, health care providers, transit authorities, utilities and private-sector clients.

Mayor Teresa Zemaitis said she has told Higgintbotham that he needs to hold off applying until the town has created a job description and started advertising. Council members are scheduled to meet tonight to discuss that issue, among others.

Higginbotham said Monday that he was less interested in applying for a full-time or permanent job than he was about volunteering to help with the transition from Kenneth City's current government to a council-manager format. Under the town's current system, an elected mayor and four council members are each responsible for the daily activities of a town department. But the town has been beset by squabbles at least since the early to mid-1990s and, on Nov. 5, 61 percent of voters chose to change to a system under which the mayor and council set policy while a professionally trained town manager runs Kenneth City.

"It's going to be difficult," Higginbotham said of the transition, which has to be completed by early March. "But I think in very short order, everybody's going to be pleased."

Higginbotham predicted that "probably the toughest part of the thing is surrendering that authority over the departments and the employees that the elected body has right now."

Referring to a comment that Zemaitis made about being happy to give up overseeing the daily minutiae in favor of spending time on creating a vision and setting policy, Higginbotham said, "If they all take that attitude, it'll be an easy transition. If there's some reluctance (it) will be difficult at first."

Higginbotham said that, when he offered his services, he did not realize that Zemaitis had called in the Range Riders for help.

The Range Rider program is a joint project of the Florida City and County Management and the International City/County Management associations. The program is made up of retired city managers who volunteer to help cities transition to a manager format of government. A member of the Range Riders is scheduled to be at the workshop.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

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