ST. PETE BEACH — Mike Bonfield will remain city manager at least until 2012.
The near-unanimous approval of a two-year extension to his current contract last week included only passing references to the often heated criticism of his performance during the past several years.
Bonfield said his seven-plus-year tenure had "flown by" as he asked the commission for a quick decision to renew his contract, which was scheduled to expire on Jan. 27, 2010.
The reason, he said, was that if the commission did not want to retain him, he needed time to find a new job.
He stressed, however, that he was not threatening to leave his job with the city.
"It is not my career goal to go from a town of 10,000 to a city of 50,000," Bonfield said. "My youngest son is going to high school next year, and I want to see him finish there."
Before his appointment as St. Pete Beach city manager in 2002, Bonfield was city manager in Madeira Beach. He previously worked in Gulfport as a recreation supervisor, parks and recreation director, and then as director of community services.
"I am very, very confident in Mr. Bonfield and all aspects of his work," said Mayor Mike Finnerty. "It would be amazing to find somebody that could do as good a job as Mr. Bonfield has done."
Finnerty acknowledged that in the past Bonfield had often found himself in a "political hotbox," but he said he had "never seen a city manager work as hard as" Bonfield.
Bonfield often was a frequent target for criticism by supporters of Citizens for Responsible Growth, which advocated reduced growth and sharp limits on development, building height and density in the city.
"He has worked very hard under very difficult conditions," said newly elected Commissioner Beverly Garnett.
Before her election, Garnett was a vocal supporter of the rival pro-development group, Save Our Little Village.
Only Commissioner Christopher Leonard voted against the new contract, even though he said he was "very pleased" with the help Bonfield has given residents in his district.
Instead, Leonard preferred an open-ended contract with a smaller severance payment that he said was less "financially risky" for the "current economic times."
The new contract renewal does not change Bonfield's $117,180 salary.
Last month the commission granted Bonfield a one-time $2,308.46 cost-of-living bonus, but he has not received a regular salary increase since January 2007.