ZEPHYRHILLS — Reversing course, City Council members agreed to skip a formal search for a top administrator and offer the job to interim City Manager Steve Spina.
Mayor Gene Whitfield urged the council to save the city the cost of conducting a search and avoid the possibility of raising the hopes of potential applicants and then hiring Spina — which most council members have previously acknowledged would be the likely outcome of a formal search.
During a City Council meeting Monday, Whitfield pointed out that in the past four decades, the city has had seven city managers — five brought on by direct hires and who were known by the council and two hired after a search process. The direct hires served a combined 36 years, while the others stayed on the job a total of four years, he said. Spina has lived in Zephyrhills for more than 30 years and was a city employee for 24 before retiring in 2011 after 15 years as city manager.
Spina, 61, offered in May to fill in temporarily following the ouster of Jim Drumm. Spina soon said he would apply for the job permanently.
"He has a real grasp of our community," said Whitfield. "Since returning in May, he has demonstrated a calm, quiet leadership. Employee morale has improved and there has been a tremendous and immediate improvement in communication between the council and City Hall."
Council members Charlie Proctor, Lance Smith and Ken Burgess all agreed with Whitfield and voted to hire Spina.
"The ball is rolling pretty well right now," said Burgess. "I don't want to stop it."
Council member Kent Compton cast the lone dissenting vote, saying that while he is pleased with Spina's job performance he believes the city should go through the process of letting people apply for the job.
City Attorney Joseph Poblick told the council there was no legal obligation to conduct an official search for city manager.
Poblick and Proctor will negotiate a formal offer with Spina.
In other business, the council agreed to have a special meeting Aug. 19 to consider firing the contractor and architecture firm working on the Sixth Avenue fire station rehabilitation project. The city is facing more than $250,000 in cost overruns and work will not be completed on time, officials said.