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Tarpon Springs city manager is finalist for Arizona job

TARPON SPRINGS — Goodyear, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, is looking for a city manager who can handle explosive growth.

That search has led officials to Ellen Posivach, Tarpon Springs' city manager, one of three finalists for the job.

Local officials say they would hate to see Posivach go, but understand why Goodyear officials may want her to lead the city of more than 56,000, which expects to triple its population by about 2020.

On her application cover letter, Posivach said she is impressed by Goodyear's tremendous potential and said she prefers a growing city to a city suffering the ill effects of unplanned growth.

"I have planned development in large local governments, such as the city of Norfolk (Va.), which was experiencing growth at that time," she wrote, "and I have handled the unpleasant results of unplanned growth in subsequent cities; I must say, I much prefer the former."

Posivach also told her prospective employers that Florida Trend magazine recognized Tarpon Springs as a "Turn Around City" during her tenure.

Posivach did not return a call from the Times Wednesday, but she did send an e-mail to the Tarpon Springs mayor, board of commissioners and city directors to notify them she is a finalist for the Goodyear position.

Mayor Beverley Billiris said she learned Posivach applied for the job when she received a call from an executive search firm. The mayor said she gave Posivach a good recommendation.

"She's done an excellent job for Tarpon Springs," Billiris said. "With her accomplishments and her qualifications, it was only a matter of time before a larger city would pick her up."

Goodyear is more than twice the size of Tarpon Springs.

Posivach has been city manager since 1999, longer than most city managers stay, and she has won several national awards over the past year, Billiris said.

Posivach makes $122,910 annually in Tarpon Springs; Goodyear's former city manager was making about $165,000 when he retired in 2007. Billiris said Tarpon Springs can't match that kind of salary.

Tarpon Springs Commissioner Chris Alahouzos was surprised to hear Posivach was considering leaving the city.

"I was under the impression that she loved Tarpon Springs," he said.

He noted how successful Posivach has been at bringing grant money to the city for projects, including $20.1-million recently for the city's water system and another $1-million for restoring shoreline.

"I don't know how serious she is about it," said Vice Mayor David Archie. "My hope is that she still remains the city manager for the city of Tarpon Springs."

However, her tenure has not been without controversy.

At least one commissioner expressed concern after Posivach decided to spend the entire 2007 Legislative session lobbying in Tallahassee. Questions were raised about whether that was an effective use of her time.

More recently, several commissioners have been critical about Posivach's use of time off and have asked her to notify them when she is going out of town.

Posivach will travel to Goodyear from March 18 through 20 for three days of interviews.

Roric Massey, the Goodyear city attorney in charge of the process, said there is no front-runner for the job. The other finalists are John Fischbach, the county administrator in Jefferson County, Wash.; and Phillip L. Nelson, the city manager in Troy, Mich.

"We've narrowed it down to three," he said, "and the council is looking forward to meeting with them and going from there.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Theresa Blackwell at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Tarpon Springs city manager is finalist for Arizona job 03/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 5, 2008 8:42pm]
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