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Beach Manager Stilwell sheds interim title

April 23, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Less than 2-1/2 months after a temporary employee agreement was accepted and ratified, the ninth Beach manager to take the reigns of chief administrative officer since the Town of Fort Myers Beach incorporated on Dec. 31, 1995 has shed his interim title to become official.

The Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously approved an employee agreement with Manager Don Stilwell. The contract includes similar terms and conditions similar of his predecessor, Terry Stewart. It includes an annual base salary of $120,000 for a term of one year with automatic renewals for successive terms unless a 90 days written notice is provided by either party to the other. There are amendments related to termination and deferred compensation.

"I am very pleased," said Stilwell. "I know this is a good fit for me, and I want to make it good for the Town."

Stilwell is actually beginning his 13th week as the head man at Town Hall. He addressed the Council after the employee agreement was approved.

"I will work very hard to validate your confidence," he said.

Councilwoman Summer Stockton admitted she spent time looking into town manager contracts from neighboring communities.

"I want to keep a long-term town manager," she said.

According to contract language, performance evaluations for Stilwell were to occur annually. Stockton thought reviews initially should come more frequently.

"I think it would be best for Don and us to do some sort of initial performance review," she said. "I think we need to add some sort of performance review now and give Don some sort of direction."

Mayor Anita Cereceda agreed on the performance concept.

"I think that's a great idea just because it keeps us all up to date, and he's not operating blind," she said.

Council stated it will collectively develop goals and objectives for their new manager. The discussion of such will be held during a retreat between town officials.

Stilwell's employee agreement also includes benefits: medical, dental and vision insurance; vehicle allowance ($500 monthly); professional dues and development; paid annual leave (210 hours of vacation time; 120 hours of sick time); cellular phone; and laptop computer.

Vacation time was discussed. Stilwell assured Council he has never taken the complete allotment of vacation in his long managerial career.

"I have never in my life taken the full allocation of vacation time," he said.

Unlike his interim employment package, Stilwell could be entitled to a severance package if he is terminated without cause after the first six months of agreement. In that case, Town records indicate an agreement to pay him a lump sum severance payment equal to the lesser of 20 weeks of his base salary or the maximum amount of severance pay under Florida law at the time of any such termination. If he is terminated within the first six months of agreement, he is not entitled to any severance, but would qualify to payment for any accrued but unpaid annual leave.

During its Feb. 3 meeting, Council unanimously agreed upon terms of employment for Stilwell, an "at will" employment that consisted of a salary of $10,000 per month as well as a vehicle allowance, health insurance and phone and computer as benefits. The interim position did not include a severance package.

"What is good for Don Stilwell, I will make even better for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. I will work very hard to show you that. I will show by my actions more than my speech," Stilwell stated when that interim contract was approved.

Stilwell is the ninth manager to officially become Beach manager since the Town incorporated. The list includes Marsha Segal-George, John Gucciardo, Rachel Lambert, David Sallee, Gary Parker, David Sallee (second term), Scott Janke, Jack Green and Terry Stewart.

Stilwell is a former Lee County manager and the longest serving manager in Lee County history with 16 years of service. The Fort Myers resident was Lee County manager from 1993-2009.

Stilwell was selected to serve in the Beach interim role less than one week after Stewart was removed from office during a special meeting on Jan. 15. He was a front-runner for the Beach post in 2010 when Council selected Stewart.

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 appoints Town committee member

Council appointed Margaret "Peg" LaMarca to the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus Advisory Board. The assignment to the voluntary Town committee fills the only open position on the seven member board after a resignation.

LaMarca's related experience involves working to assist children and their families and includes being part of a mental health team that worked together aiming to best serve youth according to their special needs. She has stated she has worked with each youth on a one-on-one basis, following a service plan aimed at meeting specific educational, recreational and daily living skills in that capacity.



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