PINELLAS PARK — When City Manager Mike Gustafson announced he was eyeing retirement, two employees told him they're eyeing his job.
Now Gustafson has figured out a way for them — and the City Council — to decide if they'd do well. He has made them co-interim assistant city managers. The two — fire Chief Doug Lewis and police Capt. Mike Haworth — will spend the next year or so overseeing city departments and completing projects and other tasks. The idea is to let them "test drive" the job to see if they truly want it and to provide on-the-job training.
"The city manager position is unique," Gustafson said. "It is like standing on one leg and juggling the needs and wants of residents, elected officials and employees. It's not for everyone and most often we don't get to try it on to make sure it's a good fit."
Under the plan, Gustafson will remain in charge. Haworth and Lewis will meet with administrators and oversee Pinellas Park's daily operations. Gustafson said this will provide real value to the city by ensuring that goals are accomplished rather than having the two perform hypothetical tests during a job interview. When he does retire in about a year, Gustafson said he hopes to be able to make a recommendation to council members in choosing the best person to succeed him.
"Ultimately it is City Council's decision," Gustafson said, "but whether they select Mike or Doug, or someone else within or outside our current staff, they will be better prepared and that's a win for our residents."
The appointments are among a flurry of other personnel changes. Assistant City Manager Tom Shevlin will be retiring in the early summer. Haworth will be replaced in his police job by Capt. Kevin Riley. And District fire Chief of Training Guy Keirn has been promoted to interim fire chief.
Haworth, 51, is a native of Dunedin who has a degree in government from San Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, and a master's degree in public administration from Troy University in Troy, Ala. He is a 2003 graduate of the FBI Academy. He served for five years in the Air Force and joined the Pinellas Park Police Department in July 1990.
He was a patrol officer and also served stints in vice and narcotics. Haworth oversaw the detail that guarded the Hospice of the Suncoast while the legal and political battle raged over the fate of Terri Schiavo, who was a patient at the time.
He helped guide leadership changes in the Police Department during a time of turmoil in 2000. Among the issues facing the department were accusations of bias by female officers. He was instrumental in creating the Police Department's homeless outreach initiative and the community policing team dedicated to covering Pinellas Park's redevelopment area. He was second in command of the department before being promoted to the assistant city manager position.
Haworth was earning about $94,613 a year as a police captain. His new job gives him a 5 percent increase by about $4,731 to $99,344 a year.
He is married and has one son. His wife, Kelly, is a staff assistant in Pinellas Park's human resources department.
"The idea that they would create a program to allow us to show our talents I thought was very creative," Haworth said Friday. The plan, he said, is a wise move that gives Gustafson and the council a chance of "ensuring that the transition of leadership for the city is done in the best manner."
Lewis, 57, is a native of New York whose family moved to Pinellas Park in the mid 1950s. He attended what was then St. Petersburg Junior College from 1980 to 1996 for continuing education courses in fire science. He received a bachelor's degree in 2000 in public leadership and organizational studies from Eckerd College. He received a certification as a public manager from Florida State University in August 2004.
Lewis worked for the St. Petersburg fire department from 1975 to July 2002, retiring as the rescue division chief before becoming the Polk County fire chief. He served for eight years in the Coast Guard Reserve.
Since becoming Pinellas Park's fire chief in November 2004, Lewis has served as president of the Pinellas County Fire Chiefs Association, is the chair of the Pinellas Park Boys and Girls Club board, chairs the Kenneth City planning and zoning board, is past president of the Kiwanis Club of Pinellas Park. He has served on several countywide advisory boards on the future of Pinellas' emergency management services system and was the chiefs' representative on the emergency medical services advisory commission.
He lives in Kenneth City, is married and has two children and is expecting his first grandchild. As fire chief, Lewis earned about $115,276 a year. As co-interim assistant city manager, he will make about $5,764, or 5 percent more, about $121,040 annually.
"It was a surprise the way it came into being," Lewis said of the co-interim plan. Like Haworth, he said, he believes the move is a wise one for the city.
"We don't see it as a competition but we see it as an avenue that can benefit both of us and the city," Lewis said.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.