Former Lee County manager Don Stilwell has officially signed on to take the interim manager position for the Town of Fort Myers Beach and has begun work at Town Hall. The only question is how long will that role last?
Stilwell, the longest serving manager in Lee County history with 16 years of service, began his new job Monday morning, after signing an employee agreement. He will be paid a base salary of $120,000 and will receive a benefits package that includes health insurance and a car allowance, but no severance package like former town manager Terry Stewart, who was terminated without cause Jan. 15.
"I'm very pleased, and I am up for the challenge," said Stilwell. "Frankly, I've already had a couple meetings today (Monday) and, being a local governmental person, I have certainly stayed in touch (with the many Beach issues). We've been dealing with them for a number of years."
Beach Mayor Alan Mandel, who witnessed the signing, confirmed Stilwell and he "had a couple of meetings already" and described them as "very productive."
On Jan. 21, the Beach Council selected their incoming interim manager by a slim 3-2 count during the second round of a rank ballot voting process. Council chose from a short list of four candidates that featured Stilwell, former Beach interim manager Jack Green, former Sanibel and Bonita Springs manager Gary Price (he received the other two votes) and Town Director of Finance Evelyn Wicks, who is serving as acting manager.
The selection was less than one week after Stewart was terminated without cause after a request for resignation. Stewart had been under fire for controversial building permits for elevated pools and accessory structures that were issued by one of his staff members.
Asked if he would be making any in-house changes as far as staff, Stilwell thought it would be "inappropriate" to do so at this time.
"We have at least two new Council members coming on in March. Hopefully, we can all move forward," he said.
Due to the upcoming Council elections and many major projects on the table for the Town, Council believed the Town needed an interim manager in place and an immediate search for the full-time position to take place.
Stilwell, who was fired from his County post for prior dissemination of sexually explicit emails from his work computer, 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.
According to Town officials, Stilwell could be employed up to eight months and, if suitable, be hired full time. In the most recent past, Town officials have put off using a search firm to examine local candidates for the full-time role. 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 up with group interviews.
Asked if he would consider a full-time role at manager of the Beach, Stilwell answered affirmatively.
"That's without hesitation," he said.