TEMPLE TERRACE — Outgoing City Manager Kim Leinbach offers this advice on staying employed with five bosses looking over your shoulder:
"First of all, you treat everybody equally and impartially. You provide the same information to everyone. Ultimately, your duty is to implement the direction … of the majority, whoever constitutes the majority.''
Don't form alliances. Stay out of politics.
It's a philosophy that has kept Leinbach employed in the turbulent world of city administration for more than 40 years, 14 of them in this city of 25,000. The 64-year-old manager has announced that he will retire at the end of January.
"I'm going to, I think, rest a little bit,'' said Leinbach, who has made a habit of arriving to work at 6:30 every morning. "But I want to keep working a little bit, part time.'' He said he may do some consulting work.
The City Council will soon start interviewing people vying to replace him. Among the nine candidates for the job, advertised at $110,000 per year — depending on qualifications — are the town manager of Southwest Ranches in Broward County; the city manager of Mascotte in Lake County; a town manager from Pennsylvania; and another from New Jersey.
"All in all, I think he's done a good job,'' said council member David Pogorilich, noting that Leinbach has always been straight and honest with him.
But Pogorilich said he wants the next city manager to be more proactive in marketing the city and in keeping developer Vlass Temple Terrace on track in the $160 million Downtown Temple Terrace project, a planned office, retail and residential community on the east side of 56th Street, from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River. The new manager should have experience running a similar size city, he said.
Ronald A. Govin, who reached his term limit and stepped down from the City Council last month, said Leinbach has been a "well-rounded'' city manager who was well-prepared in presenting issues before the council.
"He managed from the position of wanting the council to make the decision. In the past, we've had city managers who were very strong, with them wanting to make the decision,'' Govin said, adding it's probably best to have a blend of the two.
Council member Alison Fernandez, who also said Leinbach has served the city well, said she wants someone "who will bring a fresh set of eyes'' to the city. Noting that the city has been too complacent in promoting itself, she said the new city manager should have "experience with rejuvenation, not just development.''
Leinbach, an Iowa native who was city manager of Madeira Beach, Atlantic Beach and Green Cove Springs before starting the Temple Terrace job in 1999, counts among his team's accomplishments the establishment of a goal-oriented program for city improvement, based on surveys of what residents think is important in the next 20 years.
"I'm a believer that government works for the people and doesn't tell the people what they want,'' he said.
Completing the downtown development, making the community more accommodating to walkers and bicyclists, maintaining the city services, traditions and small town atmosphere were some of the goals listed.
Each year, the council holds a goal-setting session, he said. "We take the goals, give them to the department directors and ask them to put (them) in the budget to implement.''
The biggest challenge the next manager will face, he said, is to keep the level of services up despite the drop in tax revenue due to the weak economy. The city has done it, Leinbach said, through a job freeze, reducing staff by attrition and consolidating duties.
"I guess there's a silver lining to anything,'' he said. "It's made us extremely efficient.''
In addition to resting and possibly consulting, Leinbach looks forward to doing more missionary work with his church, First Baptist of Temple Terrace, in retirement. He also plans to help children in Ethiopia as a missionary for the Jacksonville church his son attends.
He's no stranger to foreign places. As the son of U.S. State Department workers, Leinbach grew up all over the world. He was a kid in Iran when the Shah was in power and was a high school student in Vietnam in 1965, just as that war heated up.
"You learn to make friends fast and become very flexible,'' he said. "I went to four high schools in four years. That made me resilient.''
Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.