TARPON SPRINGS — Six months ago, city commissioners were split on whether to look far and wide for a new city manager.
But ultimately, they decided to give the city manager's job to Mark LeCouris, a native son who is treading a path familiar to his family.
LeCouris, 51, is following in the footsteps of his father, Blaine LeCouris, who spent two years as city manager in the 1980s after 10 years as police chief.
"I'm very happy and ready to get to work," LeCouris said Tuesday night after commissioners voted unanimously to keep him on the job indefinitely.
LeCouris said he never really aspired to become city manager, but was spurred to consider the job last year after longtime City Manager Ellen Posivach resigned under pressure in early May while the city faced serious economic challenges.
Also, he inherited his father's commitment to the city, he said.
"What I got from him is that passion for the community," he said.
Commissioners said they've seen an increase in staff morale and have received positive feedback from residents since LeCouris took over the post on an interim basis.
Recent evaluations showed LeCouris was meeting or exceeding expectations in all areas, including cultivating relationships with residents, public relations and financial management, commissioners said.
"Mr. LeCouris has done an outstanding job since he stepped into this position," said Commissioner Susan Slattery.
In August, commissioners voted 3-2 to forgo a candidate search and give LeCouris a six-month tryout. Mayor Beverley Billiris and Vice Mayor Robin Saenger dissented then, saying they'd like to interview other applicants before making a decision. Both said Tuesday they were pleased with LeCouris' accomplishments, though they still would have liked to see LeCouris compete against others before being awarded the job.
"I feel you have stepped up and are proving yourself, but I'm also encouraging you to continue with training," Saenger said.
In 1998, LeCouris served as interim city manager after the departure of Costa Vatikiotis. LeCouris said the experience he gained then — and during his eight years as acting director of administrative services — prepared him for the job now.
Details about LeCouris' contract, and a decision about who will replace him as police chief, will be worked out in the coming weeks, commissioners said.
LeCouris makes $112,000 annually as police chief and no longer receives pension contributions because he's enrolled in the city's deferred retirement option plan. Posivach had been making $126,000 a year and received $27,863 a year in pension contributions. LeCouris said Tuesday he isn't concerned about a raise.
"I'm obviously, in these budget times, not asking you for more money," he told commissioners.
Commissioner Peter Dalacos said that attitude — a willingness to put the city's needs before his own — was precisely why LeCouris was the right person for the job.
Several residents spoke on LeCouris' behalf. Former Mayor Anita Protos said LeCouris had proven in the last six months he was more than capable of filling his father's shoes.
"The night Mark LeCouris sat in that seat air lifted out of Tarpon Springs, bad air," she said. "Mark, you've overstepped your father as a city manager. You've proven so much."
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4162.