CLEARWATER — The city has chosen a new attorney to lead its legal department for the first time in almost three decades.
The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to begin negotiations with David Margolis, chief assistant city attorney of Orlando.
Margolis will succeed City Attorney Pam Akin, who is scheduled to retire on Oct. 4 after 27 years in the role.
Officials repeatedly praised the quality of all five finalists, which included one internal candidate, Matthew Smith, Clearwater’s senior assistant city attorney since 2014. But they said Margolis had the edge during in-person interviews. The position has a salary range of $210,000 to $240,000.
“The energy, enthusiasm and preparation of Mr. Margolis really blew me away,” council member Mark Bunker said.
Margolis, 40, has served as chief assistant city attorney of Orlando since 2019, where he supervises eight attorneys and paralegals and leads the public safety legal team, according to his application.
He previously worked as general counsel for the Orange County Clerk of the Circuit Court, public safety legal advisor for Hollywood, Fla., and regional legal advisor for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Margolis said he grew up with an interest in “good government,” which prompted him to pursue law.
He said he wanted to be a part of “the big ideas” occurring in Clearwater, like downtown redevelopment, the adoption of the environmental policy Greenprint 2.0 and strategic planning.
“They’ve shown, I think, a tremendous vision for what the community can look like and I had always wanted to be a part of something big like that,” Margolis said.
Clearwater is also going through a period of significant transition in leadership with a simultaneous search this year for a new city manager and city attorney.
Akin served most of her 27 years with former city manager Bill Horne, who led the city for 20 years. Horne died on Aug. 14 of a suspected heart attack, three weeks before his planned retirement and amid the search for his successor.
Margolis said this period presents an opportunity for the new city attorney and city manager to form a partnership like the one between Akin and Horne, which he said served the city well.
The council is scheduled to interview four finalists for city manager on Sept. 1 and Sept. 2.
“It’s an opportunity to work with a new city manager and build that relationship from the ground up,” Margolis said.