CLEARWATER — The City Council on Thursday selected four finalists to interview for the city manager position, the second time officials have gone through that process this year.
The city had to restart its search in June after four of five finalists dropped out before scheduled interviews began.
In this round, 109 people applied, 18 more than the first search. While 20 percent of the applicants were women, the 12 semifinalists presented to the council by search firm Baker Tilly were all men, a dynamic council member Kathleen Beckman called “upsetting.”
“To be perfectly honest, it was like a gut punch when I opened the document that I got first, zero women in the final 12,” Beckman said.
But the finalist pool is diverse in another way in that three of the four men are African American.
The finalists are Milton Dohoney Jr., former assistant city manager of Phoenix, Arizona; Alfred Fletcher, assistant chief administrative officer of Montgomery County, Maryland; Jon Jennings, city manager of Portland, Maine; and Keith Moffett, county manager for Macon-Bibb County, Georgia.
In-person interviews are scheduled for Sept. 1 and Sept. 2, just before City Manager Bill Horne will retire after 20 years on Sept. 3. The council agreed this week that Assistant City Manager Micah Maxwell will serve as interim until a new leader is expected to begin in mid-October.
“I’m happy with them, I think there’s definitely quality there,” Mayor Frank Hibbard said of the candidates in a later interview. “I feel very confident that we will find a suitable replacement for Mr. Horne.”
Dohoney, 65, has served top administrative roles in four municipalities over the last 35 years. He retired from Phoenix after seven years as assistant city manager in February, one year after he was charged with leading the COVID-19 response effort in the city of 1.7 million, according to his application.
He previously spent eight years as city manager of Cincinnati, Ohio, and 20 years in government roles in Kentucky.
In his application, Dohoney explained he left Phoenix administration to recharge after a difficult year that involved city employees dying from coronavirus in the double digits, 100 consecutive days of social justice protests and warnings from the FBI that the city’s elections could see trouble. But he said he always intended to get back to leading a government.
Dohoney said he has led waterfront development projects, a baseball stadium deal with the Milwaukee Brewers and transit-oriented development.
Fletcher, 46, has been the assistant chief administrative officer of Montgomery County since March 2019, serving on the executive team that oversees a $6 billion budget. He previously worked as senior deputy director of the Department of Small & Local Business Development and chief of staff in the Department of General Services in the District of Columbia government.
He also served as assistant to the city manager of Alexandria, Virginia from 2012 to 2014.
He notes that, under his leadership, Montgomery County has had 1,500 new jobs and leased 45,000 square feet in new commercial space over the past two years. He said he could bring that economic development experience to Clearwater’s efforts to revitalize the downtown waterfront in partnership with developers.
Jennings, 58, has worked as city manager of Portland, Maine, since 2015 and assistant city manager of South Portland, Maine the two years prior. Before his municipal career, Jennings worked in the federal government, professional sports and ran unsuccessfully for Congress.
He spent 11 years with the Boston Celtics beginning in the 1980s, including as director of basketball development. He founded the Marine Red Claws, an NBA development team he led in Portland from 2007 to 2012, according to his application.
Jennings said he worked as a senior advisor and acting assistant attorney general over legislative affairs in the Clinton administration.
He won the Democratic primary for Indiana’s 8th congressional seat in 2004 but lost the general election to incumbent Republican John Hostettler. He also served as state director of Massachusetts offices for Sen. John Kerry from 2005 to 2007.
In October, Jennings announced he would step down as Portland city manager in 2022, which followed public clashes with the mayor and calls from activists that he was not doing enough to root out systemic racism, according to the Portland Phoenix weekly newspaper.
He noted in his application he has advocated for diversity, including his creation of the Team Harmony Foundation with former Boston Celtics player Reggie Lewis and Lenny Zakim, the late New England director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Moffett, 49, is a U.S. Navy veteran with a doctorate in educational leadership. He has been county manager of Macon-Bibb, a consolidated city and county that has an overall budget of $580 million, since 2018.
According to his application, Moffett worked in local government in Georgia since 2007. When the city of Macon and county of Bibbs consolidated in 2014, Moffett was named director of 911 operations for the consolidated government. He also led Butts County as administrator from 2015 to 2018.
He highlighted his direct and transparent leadership style and that his discipline comes from his nine years as a navigation electronic technician for Navy submarines.