1. Pinellas

Madeira Beach's top pick to become next city manager is Michelle Neuner

MADEIRA BEACH — The City Commission has picked who it wants to be the next city manager: Michelle Neuner, who is currently serving as the assistant city manager in Winter Park.

She was selected Thursday by a vote of 4-1. The City Commission picked her over four other candidates who were all interviewed on Tuesday. The next step will be negotiating a contract with Neuner.

Mayor Maggi Black started Thursday's discussion by declaring that she was not impressed with any of the candidates. Instead, she said she wants the current city manager, Jonathan Evans, to remain.

"I am humbled," Evans said, "but I have signed a contract with Riviera Beach."

He officially leaves July 9 to return to the east coast city where he previously served as city manager.

Black's backup suggestion was to appoint an interim city manager and hire a consultant to help with a new search for a permanent city manager.

None of the board members liked that idea, however.

"I disagree completely," Commissioner Doug Andrews said. "I think going through this process again is absolutely ridiculous."

They said the candidates they interviewed impressed them: Lyndon Bonner, who had previously served as a county administrator in Florida and Georgia and was the city manager of North Miami Beach, and Brunswick, Ga., city manager James Drumm.

Neuner was at the top of their list. The only vote against hiring her came from Commissioner John Douthirt. He did not attend the candidate interviews because of an illness, but said he watched videos of the interviews.

"I think we will all be happy with her arrival," said Commissioner Deby Weinstein.

For the past 11 years, Neuner has served as assistant city manager in Winter Park. She is the city's chief operating officer and directly supervises 525 employees and a $172 million budget. She has 25 years' experience in municipal management, including serving as administrative services and budget manager in Maitland.

She holds a master's degree in public administration and serves as an adjunct instructor at the University of Central Florida. During her interview with the city, she said one of her personal goals is to become a certified planner.

"I am not looking to job hop," she told the commission. "I want to be part of a family-oriented community where I can make a difference and have a lasting impact."

She said she is a strong believer in communication, transparency and strategic leadership.

"One of my strengths as a leader is the ability to develop and build strong, collaborative teams," Neuner said in her application for the Madeira Beach job.

The commission authorized Evans and the city's attorney to start contract negotiations with Neuner.

Douthirt indicated he would not be happy if Neuner asked for more than the $125,000 salary the city advertised.

Evans is currently earning $150,000 and has been city manager in Madeira Beach for less than two years.

Since Neuner is currently employed, it is not certain when she would be able to assume her position in Madeira Beach.

The commission will meet at 2 p.m. Tuesday to discuss hiring an interim city manager, since Evans will be gone in just over a week. Most of the commission appears to favor former St. Pete Beach City Manager Wayne Saunders, who recently retired from that city.