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Clearwater launches second nationwide search to find new city manager

Most of the five finalists dropped out of the search to replace outgoing city manager Bill Horne.
Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne photographed during a break of a Clearwater City Council meeting Monday, April 12, 2021 at the Clearwater Main Library.
Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne photographed during a break of a Clearwater City Council meeting Monday, April 12, 2021 at the Clearwater Main Library. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]
Published Jun. 14
Updated Jun. 14

CLEARWATER — Officials are launching a second nationwide search for a new city manager after most of the finalists in the initial process dropped out.

The city will continue to use search firm Baker Tilly, which officials hired in March for $26,500, and will face no additional fees beyond advertising. However, the council on Monday decided to ask that a different recruiter handle the second round.

“This wasn’t exactly what I visualized would happen with the city manager search,” council member David Allbritton said at a special meeting.

In May, Baker Tilly narrowed a pool of 91 applicants to 10 semifinalists in the search to succeed outgoing city manager Bill Horne, who is retiring after 20 years. The City Council selected five finalists on May 24.

Over the next two weeks, three finalists withdrew from consideration. On Thursday, days before the council was scheduled to host the remaining two for in-person interviews, one said he’d be unable to travel due to a family medical emergency but was still interested in the position.

Council member Hoyt Hamilton on Monday advocated rescheduling the interviews with the two finalists: city administrator Carl Geffken of Fort Smith, Ark., and city manager Kevin Woods of Thornton, Colo.

The other four council members moved to start over.

Council member Kathleen Beckman questioned whether Baker Tilly director Art Davis interviewed the 10 semifinalists before recommending them to the council.

Human resources director Jennifer Poirrier said the search firm is required in its contract to conduct telephone interviews before recommending candidates.

Poirrier said the firm is also expected to inform applicants of Florida’s robust public records law, which makes their applications available to the public and media even if they are not selected.

Poirrer said Geffken and Woods will remain in the process. However, starting a second search means the city will advertise the position again for 30 days, and a recruiter from Baker Tilly will submit new recommendations.

Mayor Frank Hibbard said he expects more candidates in the second round now that it is public record that no internal candidates applied. He said many expected assistant city manager Micah Maxwell, who is “very well respected around the state,” to apply, which may have prevented some from going up against him.