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St. Petersburg questions applicants

Published Oct. 10, 2005

Four men hoping to become the next city manager fielded questions from City Council on Tuesday about management styles, baseball, taxes and development, offering glimpses of themselves and their philosophies.

Another three candidates will be interviewed today, and the council may immediately narrow the list to two to four semifinalists who will come back for final interviews.

Thomas D. Dalton, the city manager of Little Rock, Ark., emphasized his role as a consensus builder. He said services such as garbage collection should be cost-efficient or cities ought to look to private enterprise. He said that while development is important, he has learned that "cities will benefit from incremental development rather than grand schemes."

C. Scott Johnson, executive director of the Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati and former Cincinnati city manager, left city government during a political storm in 1990. Since then he has directed the completion and operation of a new museum complex with large civic and corporate backing. "That was a unique experience, and I think it made me a better and more effective leader than I was before," he said. Cincinnati had a troubled downtown retail project that was turned into a new shopping development. "That project and its success, I take a great deal of credit for," he said.

Herbert J. Bailey, assistant city manager of Miami, oversees development there. "My entire function in Miami is to make money," he said. "I build things." That means leasing vacant waterfront property and blighted land to developers. "Anytime you have land that is just sitting there, it's not making any money," he said. "Why be so tight-fisted?"

Steve Garman, managing partner of Government Credit Corp. in Pensacola and a former Pensacola city manager, said that in tight times cities can save by cutting waste rather than raising taxes. He said St. Petersburg's chances of getting a Major League Baseball team should improve when _ and not if _ communism falls in Cuba, and Japan and Europe open up as baseball markets. "When that happens, and I think it's going to happen soon, there are going to be a lot more opportunities for baseball in cities throughout the world," he said.