MADEIRA BEACH — A former public works director, James "Scott" Sundermeier, was picked Friday as the city's next city manager, setting the stage for the city to move in a new direction.
It won't be official, however, until Sundermeier, 58, agrees to and signs a contract with the city.
He also must pass a pre-employment physical and drug test.
City officials hope those steps can be completed during a special commission meeting at 7 tonight, scheduled to formally approve Sundermeier's contract.
By Tuesday, it was not clear, however, whether that schedule could be met.
"I am still working on a contract, and I don't believe it will be ready for Wednesday's meeting," Sundermeier said.
He said he has no particular issues in the contract, but that he was doing his "due diligence" before agreeing to or adding terms.
"I don't know how long the negotiations will take," he said.
If the city and Sundermeier can reach an agreement, it also is unclear when he could be on the job.
He works as a part-time consultant for Brang Construction, a Boca Raton company. Previously, he worked for the city of Coconut Creek, where over a 27-year period he served as director of public works, director of public services and director of community services. He also was interim city manager there in 1993.
Sundermeier lives with his wife in Boynton Beach and has a son, daughter-in-law and "brand new grandson" living nearby.
"I will need to find a place to live (in the Madeira Beach area) and do the commuting thing for a while," Sundermeier said, explaining that his wife is a career educator and plans to remain in Boynton Beach for the time being.
Sundermeier said he is looking forward to beginning his new duties in Madeira Beach.
He described the City Commission, employees and residents he met during his formal interview Friday as a "wonderful, supportive group."
If and when Sundermeier officially becomes city manager, he will work for a sometimes sharply divided commission and supervise a staff decimated by resignations and fearful of future staff changes.
Since the March election, the city has lost its longtime city clerk and finance director. Just before the election, the community development director resigned, and the city manager was fired at his request.
Since then, the new commission has hired a city clerk, but the other positions remain unfilled.
The commission also plans to eliminate the public works/community services position, putting long-time employee Mike Maxemow out of a job. During recent budget discussions the commission has discussed eliminating or shifting other positions as well.
The commission's reorganization of city government has a two-fold purpose: saving taxpayers' money and making the city more efficient and responsive to residents.
The city manager post is a prime example of that shift. Whoever is chosen will not only manage the city as a whole but will be responsible for day-to-day management and operations of the city's public works department.
That suits Sundermeier's goals as well.
"What attracted me about the city is the opportunity to get in there and help to really make a change. I like to rebuild things, to make things look good and see the physical results of my work," he said.
Sundermeier had long been the first choice of Commissioners Robin Vander Velde and Nancy Oakley.
They were joined Friday by Mayor Travis Palladeno after his first choice, James Gleason, withdrew to accept a permanent city manager position in Mascotte.
Months ago, all three commission members had another first choice. Belleair Beach Public Works Allen Godfrey declined a job offer because of the vehement opposition of Commissioners Terry Lister and Carol Reynolds.
The same 3-2 commission split occurred Friday, but without the same acrimony, when the commission picked Sundermeier.
Reynolds, who had called Godfrey unqualified, simply said she would have preferred "somebody with a little more experience as a manager."
"I'm okay. That's politics. I'm fine. Scott, welcome on board," Lister said when asked by Palladeno if he was satisfied with the commission majority's choice.
The selection was made after more than two hours of interviews and discussion. Sundermeier was one of three finalists for the post. The other two were Ken Hurst, a retired Special Forces colonel, and Peter Lombardi, a former Treasure Island city manager.