ST. PETE BEACH — The City Commission hired a new city clerk Thursday in a unanimous decision that bypassed the city's long-serving deputy clerk.
The new clerk, Rebecca Haynes, 58, will begin her new job May 16 at a salary of about $58,000.
She will be making less money than Deputy Clerk Pam Prell, 53, who currently makes about $60,000.
Haynes and Prell were two of three finalists interviewed by the commission Thursday.
"It was a hard decision," Mayor Steve McFarlin said Friday. "Pam has certainly done a great job, but we are bringing in new experience and technical expertise we believe will help move the city into the future."
City Manager Mike Bonfield, who under the city charter will directly supervise the new clerk, said he is excited to have Haynes working for the city.
"It was a tough decision, and there was a lot of sentiment for Pam's years of service, but in the end there was a recognition that there are some things in the city clerk's office that need to be changed," Bonfield said.
McFarlin said one of the main reasons the commission picked Haynes over Prell was because under state pension regulations Prell will be forced to retire in 2015 when she completes 30 years working for the city.
"She deserved this job, but it is time for us to bring in somebody who can be here long term," McFarlin said.
Prell, who is president of the Pinellas County Municipal Clerks Association, declined to comment.
Haynes said Friday she is looking forward to working in St. Pete Beach.
"I am on cloud nine today. This was a vote of confidence in me. I was impressed with the level of professionalism that everyone displayed," Haynes said.
Although Haynes is not a certified municipal clerk, she said she is close to getting her certification and served briefly as a deputy city clerk in Cape Coral, leaving after nine months.
"It was a turbulent time in the city, and it was not a good fit for me," Haynes said. "Since then, three other people were hired for that position and are not there any longer."
She also previously worked as a city clerk and police records supervisor in Michigan and California and has earned a long list of certifications in records management, department-level management, technology and labor issues.
Most recently, Haynes worked as executive assistant to the board of directors at Riverside Bank of the Gulf Coast in Cape Coral. That bank was closed recently by the FDIC.
She will replace former city clerk Teri McMaster, who resigned last November after coming under sharp criticism from Bonfield and a consultant hired to review her department.
"We still have a lot of outstanding issues regarding records management — the storage, retention, disposal of city records," Bonfield said.
McMaster is one of three finalists for the city clerk position in Madeira Beach and will be interviewed there Monday.