MADEIRA BEACH — City commissioners unanimously picked Gulfport Assistant City Clerk Ginger Stilton on Tuesday as their top choice to become the new city clerk.
A formal job offer, including salary and benefits, will be discussed at Tuesday's meeting.
Two issues must be overcome during those negotiations.
Stilton says she wants a contract, something that Madeira Beach has never given its city clerk.
Also, she and the commission are about $12,000 apart on salary. She wants $62,000 annually, while the commission would like to offer $50,000.
Interim City Manager Bill Mallory, who is the city's fire chief, is conducting the initial negotiations with Stilton.
"If she is requiring a contract, it won't include just the things the city wants. My guess is she wants severance provisions," Mallory told the commission during the workshop discussion.
"Our past experience with contracts isn't our best experience," Commissioner Terry Lister said.
The city is being sued by former City Manager Jim Madden, who is contesting a six-month $54,000 severance package the city paid to its most recent city manager, W.D. Higginbotham Jr., when he resigned in February.
Higginbotham's resignation was preceded by the resignation of Community Development Director Paula Cohen in December and followed in the next two months by the resignations of City Clerk Denise Schlegel and Finance Director Monica Mitchell.
The resignations bookended the March election when a new majority intent on streamlining city operations — and saving significant money in city payroll — was swept into office.
Mayor Travis Palladeno and other commissioners want to reorganize the city staff to combine job duties.
On Tuesday, they gave Mallory the okay to combine the fire inspector and code inspector functions. Both positions have been vacant for some time.
After more than an hour of debate the commission appeared to reject Palladeno's idea to hire a new interim city manager and instead will conduct a nationwide search for a permanent manager.
The move was taken after Mallory told the commission he has been unable to formally advertise the city manager opening because they had yet to put together a job description.
The city has received 18 "letters of interest," Mallory said, adding that many may withdraw when they discover the job may entail dual responsibilities.
Palladeno insists that the manager also serve as the city's public works director.
Lister prefers the manager wear a dual hat as a finance director.
Commissioner Robin Vander Velde also wants the manager to have strong budgeting experience — and said veterans should have a first shot at the job.
"I am concerned. Not to get the best city manager because we want public works experience is not very smart," Lister said.
A draft job description so far includes a salary between $80,000 and $100,000, seven years of local government experience, including two years in management, preferably in Florida, and "some background" in municipal budgeting.
Mallory said the commission is not requiring the new manager have certification issued by the International City/County Management Association.
Palladeno and Commissioner Nancy Oakley originally wanted to hire Belleair Beach Community Services Director Allen Godfrey, a candidate for the permanent position, as an interim city manager.
Although that is not going to happen, Godfrey is still in the running for the permanent job and apparently would qualify under the job description Mallory is crafting.
Meanwhile, the city must prepare a budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which starts in October.
Mallory said he will not wait for a permanent manager to hire a new finance director and development manager, and, if necessary, he will bring in a consultant to help in the process. Other beach cities have offered to help as well.
"We are getting down to budget time, we need to get a city manager in here, get a finance director and get us rolling," Palladeno said.