It didn't take long for officials from the Town of Fort Myers Beach to select an interim manager.
Less than one week after Terry Stewart was removed from office, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council chose former County manager Don Stilwell to take over the leading reins for Town operations on an interim basis at its Tuesday evening meeting. The short list of four candidates involved Stilwell, former Beach interim manager Jack Green, former Sanibel and Bonita Springs manager Gary Price and Town Director of Finance Evelyn Wicks, who is serving as acting manager.
The voting process was completed through a ranking ballot that needed two rounds due to a 2-2 tie between Stilwell and Price. Wicks received one vote in the first round. In the second round, Stilwell was selected by Mayor Alan Mandel, Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski and Councilman Bob Raymond for a 3-2 winning vote over Price.
The selection of Stilwell is subject to coming to terms in an agreement. Negotiations will begin immediately. Town attorney Jim Humphrey stated the candidates had agreed to come on board under the same terms as the previous town manager.
"I voted for Mr. Stilwell because I think he has a lot of experience," said Raymond. "I had a lot of conversations with him."
Mandel stated comments from Lee County officials, a conversation with the candidate himself and the impending projects facing the Town is what swayed him to go with Stilwell.
Kosinski believed all candidates were excellent choices.
"I am sure (Stilwell) is familiar with a lot of our Town projects. I believe he could hit the ground running," he said.
Stilwell is the longest serving manager in Lee County history with 16 years of service. He was fired in 2009 for prior dissemination of sexually explicit emails from his work computer. He was a front-runner for the Beach post in 2010 when Council selected Stewart. At that time, he was present at Town Hall and expressed remorse for his prior actions.
Stilwell was County manager from 1993-2009. Other professional experience includes executive vice president/general manager of CSMI/Government (Irvine, Calif.) from 1986-92; Washington County (Ore.) administrator from 1983-86; San Luis Obispo (Calif.) administrator from 1977-83; Del Norte County (Calif.) administrator from 1974-77; Woodburn (Ore.) manager from 1972-74; and Springfield (Ore.) assistant director of finance and administration from 1970-72.
Council had reviewed resumes of each candidate at its workshop Tuesday morning and, while there was some apprehension about making a quick decision at that time, the five Town officials decided to go through the voting process during the evening meeting.
Due to the upcoming Council elections and many major projects on the table for the Town, Council believes the Town needs an interim manager in place and an immediate search for the full-time position to take place. The interim manager could be employed up to eight months and, if suitable, be hired full time.
At the workshop, Mandel stated a sense of urgency was needed.
"Given the concerns from the governmental units that we have to work with, I think we have to act quickly if you think we have qualified candidates," he said. "(We are looking for) someone who can carry the projects that are critical right now without losing a beat. We have people with outstanding experience available who have handled major projects over the years either for the County or their respective towns."
Humphrey told Council members the selected candidates had the right qualifications and recommended they at least discuss which candidates would "best accommodate" the Town.
"They seem to be qualified by their resumes to come in and act promptly and make sure they shepherd the projects through," he said. "The capabilities are there to well represent the Town on an interim or contemporary basis."
Wicks has been Director of Finance for the Town since 2006. Her duties have included risk management and directing fiscal and management control functions. She has been known for her distinguished budget preparation for the Town.
Wicks also was the budget officer for the City of Columbus (Ohio) from 2005 to 2006; finance director/treasurer for the City of Bellevue (Neb.) from 1987 to 2005; and accountant for the City of Winter Park prior to that.
Price was Bonita Springs' first city manager in October 2000 and retired from his post in June 2011 (interim manager from April to October 2000). He was also town manager of Sanibel Island for more than 14 years prior to that employment (September 1984 to January 1999) and served as assistant vice manager for the same city from March 1978 to September 1984).
Price is currently owner of Gary A. Price consulting firm, specializing in city and county governmental projects of various types. He has been a marketing and public relations director, a zoning director and administrator and assistant public works director in different Florida cities.
Green was interim manager of the Town of Fort Myers Beach for just over four months. He took over for then-dismissed Scott Janke in late July 2009, then announced his resignation for personal reasons in November 2009, but stayed on until February 2010 when Stewart signed on as full-time manager. He began his Town career in June 2005, first as a principal planner then as the Public Works Director for three years.
Green was known for his leadership of the North Estero Boulevard project, an accomplishment that came to fruition after his time at Town Hall. Before he was hired by the Town, he volunteered for the municipality as an original member of the Anchorage Advisory Committee. During his interim manager stint, he was known as the Town's information technology manager by virtue of his background with the U.S. Coast Guard, which he served from January 1975 until officially retiring in July 2005.
The process used to hire a new full-time town manager could take half a year. In the most recent past, Town officials have put off using a search firm to examine local candidates. During Council's last managerial exploration, the members were asked to create a short list of candidates, then conduct one-on-one interviews and follow with group interviews.
"I think at times you have to allow up to six months to go through getting information out, working with organization people and setting up interviews and narrowing it down to three or one," said Mandel. "That could take a while. It doesn't have to, but I think we should plan it that way."