CLEARWATER — The next city election isn't for another year, but the change coming to the makeup of the City Council is already having an impact.
Deputy City Manager Jill Silverboard announced this week she will resign May 21 after 12 years with the city to accept a job as deputy Pinellas County administrator/chief of staff.
Silverboard had long hoped to succeed City Manager Bill Horne, who plans to retire sometime in 2020 after a 20-year tenure. But she said the coming shift in March 2020, when three of the five Council seats are up for grabs and a potentially new majority of elected officials could be in charge of selecting Horne's replacement, made her reconsider.
"Frankly it's the uncertainty of what happens in Clearwater in 2020," Silverboard said. "As much as I have valued my ability to be here and support and serve this community, I just felt like this is a great career progression that gives some certainty to my professional and personal future."
Silverboard began applying for jobs outside of the city early last year, when the council voted to place a referendum on the November ballot, which if passed, would have eliminated the city manager form of government and given executive authority to a strong elected mayor. Voters rejected the referendum.
During her job search last year, Silverboard had applied for the top county administrator position and made it to the final four candidates in August. Silverboard said after the referendum failed, she did not seek out the deputy county administrator position but was contacted by a recruiter for it this year.
In her new role, which will pay $210,000, Silverboard will work under County Administrator Barry Burton, who was hired in August. Silverboard's salary with the city is $160,192.
Burton said Silverboard was chosen for her "tremendous background and experience level" over 150 candidates, who were vetted by two committees.
Horne said he will likely fill Silverboard's position internally on an interim basis. The March election complicates Horne's decision for Silverboard's permanent replacement. The city manager appoints a deputy: so should he or his successor select Silverboard's replacement?
"I fully intend to leave sometime in 2020, and that's going to affect the candidate pool," Horne said. "There may be some people interested in being assistant city manager who really have no desire whatsoever for being considered for city manager position in 2020. There's also some people who will be very talented and will certainly be a possibility if the council lets them compete."
Horne said he has not decided if he will retire before the March election so that the sitting council will appoint his successor or if he will help the new council after March acclimate before they search for his replacement.
Mayor George Cretekos will be term limited in March 2020. Council member Jay Polglaze was appointed to his seat in December to fill a vacancy and pledged to not run for the seat in March. Council member Bob Cundiff will be up for a second term.
That leaves only council members David Allbritton and Hoyt Hamilton, whose terms are up in 2022, sure bets on the dais next year.
Hamilton said he would like to see whoever fills Silverboard's position be trained under Horne and coached to be his replacement in 2020.
"My perfect scenario is to be able to hire somebody right now … so Bill can get them seasoned so when he does retire that person can run with the ball without a misstep," Hamilton said. "My personal opinion was Jill deserved to be our next city manager but we weren't in a position to give her that commitment."
Allbritton said he wants to find a permanent replacement for Silverboard as soon as possible so that an interim is not handling critical long-term initiatives. He said he would prefer for Horne to decide his departure date so that the council can plan accordingly.
"I need him to be in place when we do go out and find somebody that is going to be a city manager that he stays and helps guide them and get situated," Allbritton said. "It's something we'll be talking about the later part of this year."
In leaving the city, Silverboard reflected on how Clearwater during her tenure navigated the worst of the Great Recession and came out fiscally sound. Her proudest accomplishments mirror the technical grind of local government that is highly consequential but rarely acknowledged: management reviews for police and fire, pension reform, flood plain adjustments.
"I am so appreciative of everything the employees and community have given me in the way of trust and support," Silverboard said. "It was a really tough consideration. Had I not gotten this job, that still would have been my plan to stay in Clearwater."
Contact Tracey McManus at email@example.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.