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Forward thinking, indeed

By Staff | May 8, 2020

For those interested in what the Cape Coral City Council is looking for in its next city manager, pull up a chair and grab a beverage of choice — the attributes list is long, the roster of specific qualifications, not so much.

Council is essentially looking for a decisive, personable, diplomatic and politically astute people-person with an eye to the long-view who has at least a bachelor’s degree and a decade of progressive responsibility leading to at least two years of supervision of 200-plus staffers in a good-size city.

That’s the short of it.

The long?

The program brochure prepared by the city’s recruiting consultant firm, Colin Baenziger & Associates, provides the details, garnered via individual interviews with members of Council as to the personal and professional skill set the city’s next top administrator should bring to the table.

As advertised:

The Ideal Candidate

Cape Coral is seeking an outstanding, achievement-oriented leader and manager to help guide it in both the near and long term. The individual will truly be a professional managerin demeanor, in actions, and in appearance. He/she will serve as a trusted advisor to the City Council and partner with it to develop plans to grow and sustain the city. The individual will be a visionary who thinks strategically, always looking over the horizon to anticipate problems and take the appropriate action, so they do not develop into significant problems. The ideal candidate will understand politics but not be involved.

The successful candidate will be approachable, friendly, and easy to talk to. He/she will have outstanding oral and written communications skills, realizing that listening is an important element of communication. The individual will not spend all his/her time behind a desk, but will be a visible figure in the field, the departments and the community. The manager will be able to communicate effectively to all walks of life and be as comfortable talking to a company president as to a day laborer. Building trust with officials and residents alike is critical; being humble and willing to admit a mistake will be important to establishing credibility.

The candidate will understand people and how to lead them. He/she will be flexible and open to the ideas of others. The individual will have high, but realistic, expectations and be supportive of staff. The manager will expect to be kept informed and believe strongly in accountability. The ideal candidate will be a mentor, helping staff members to grow and improve themselves. That said, when it is time to make a decision, he/she will not hesitate.

Providing outstanding customer service will be a guiding principle to the manager. He/she will lead by example and make an effort to solve problems rather than simply saying no. Having a sense of fairness as well as a sense of humor will be significant pluses. The individual will be positive, proactive, responsive, and involved. He/she will be open, honest, of high integrity, and value transparency. The manager will always be looking for ways to improve efficiency and encouraging the staff to do the same. He/she will be straightforward, while diplomatic.

The candidate will recognize Cape Coral’s tremendous potential and work diligently to capitalize on it. The individual will need to balance daily tasks with developing long term plans. He/she will understand that everything cannot be accomplished in one year, and will allocate time to thinking about the future. Skill in economic development, water issues, utilities, capital projects, and finance will be important. Cape Coral needs to create an economic job base and encourage businesses to relocate to the area; skill in intergovernmental relations will also be important. At the same time, the individual will be environmentally sensitive.

The ideal candidate will have a minimum of 10 years of progressively responsible experience in public or private sector management, at least two years as a manager overseeing the efforts of at least 200 employees, and worked at a high level in a city with a population of over 100,000. A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, with a major in administration, management or a related field, is required.

That’s quite a list and any candidate who can dot all of those I’s and cross all of the T’s will be well worth the city’s approved compensation of $180,000-$270,000 with benefits that are “reasonably generous.”

Still, as Council culls its hoped-for “forward thinking manager” from the applicant herd, let us add an attribute notably missing from its “ideal” list:

The successful candidate must have a firm grasp of the fiscal challenges of a largely residential tax base and so the impact of all projects, programs and personnel initiatives proposed on the community that funds them.

And yes, we include the vacant lot property owners who subsidize said budget with little in return except an impact fee levy when they finally build.

We urge Council to hit this one hard, especially since economic crystal balls are as rare as toilet paper at retailers right now.

We also suggest that Council carefully consider not only qualifications but where each applicant garnered his or her experience base.

Leadership approach tends to spring not only from what one has done, but in what that leader has come to know.

If what you know is how to deliver the additional programs and projects your community or council may want is through the type of “revenue diversification” popular in high-tax states, you may reach first into the familiar fee-assessment-new tax bag of tricks.

If what you know is that a good way to sell pricey project proposals as well as raises and benefit boosts desired by city departments is with select community comparisons and consultant-generated reports, you’re going to present the paper, umm, research.

If what you know is that one-on-one consensus-building and some subtle horse trading gets proposals passed, you’re going to build relationships with supportive council members. The board outliers, maybe not so much.

If what you know is a city or county at near buildout, you may not know how to effect change in a pre-platted community that has fed its single-family sacred cow to a status-quo complacency that awakens to gore pretty much any project proposal of another type.

If you’ve worked — and worked well — in a state that’s “Sunshine” free, you might know the benefits to be found in the shade and find it hard to adapt to a more public process.

So let us add fiscal prudency and like experience to Council’s “must have” list.

Some on City Council have said hiring a new city manager is the most important task they have at hand.

We agree.

We thank those who agreed to take the time to make the right choice.

Because making the right choice is key. Be the type of visionary you hope to hire and vet with care.

-Breeze editorial