homepage logo

Follow the money

By Staff | May 28, 2020

Cape Coral City’s Council’s search for a new city manager has moved into the interview phase.

Members of the elected board spent their Thursday in a series of one-on-one interviews with candidates for the city’s top administrative post.

Council as a whole will conduct follow-ups with each today, asking any remaining questions members might have at a special meeting to begin at 9:30 a.m. in Council Chambers.

The candidates, first winnowed from a field of some 60 applicants into semi-finalists by the city’s search firm, Colin Baenzinger & Associates, and then culled further into five finalists by Council are:

* Anne Fritz: Chief financial officer for the city of St. Petersburg, (population 260,999) since 2010. Has worked as finance director for 30 years in Florida and Ohio.

* Rob Hernandez: Deputy city manager for Fort Lauderdale (population 182,595). Was city manager of Savannah, Ga. from 2016-19.

* Rob Perry: Most recently worked for the city of Albuquerque, N.M. (population 560,218). He was the chief administrative officer for seven years and the city attorney for one year. Served as Secretary of Corrections for the state of New Mexico from 1997-2002.

* Leonard Sossamon: Most recently county administrator for Hernando County (population 186,553) for seven years. Was city manager for 13 years in Concord, N.C. from 1985-98.

* Kenny Young: Most recently worked for Loudoun County, Va. (population 413,538). He was the assistant county administrator for five years and a senior project manager for three years.

Due to the pandemic, there won’t be a public meet-and-greet such as the city hosted in 2012 when City Manager John Szerlag was among the finalists.

Those who are interested in the process, however, still can “meet” the candidates.

Application files for each, including cover letters and resumes, candidate introductions, references and more may be found on the city’s website, capecoral.net, with Friday’s meeting agenda.

The special meeting, which includes its usual public input time prior to moving on to Council business — in this case consecutive public interviews with each candidate — will follow.

While the candidate answers are, of course, the point of the public interviews, it will be the questions themselves that will frame for residents what Council is looking for in its next city manager — the person who will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city as well as the implementation of all Council policies, directives and priorities.

The routine questions and, we suspect, the hard ones, will have been asked and answered Thursday in the one-on-ones.

Friday’s public interview questions then, will likely emphasize each council member’s priorities in an effort to share perceived strengths and weaknesses among the candidates as elected officials cannot, by law “compare notes” privately.

Let us hope that that emphasis includes a demonstrated ability to meet the fiscal challenges of a largely residential tax base in a retail, service and construction-based economy that’s seasonal and tourism driven.

Hone in not only on each candidate’s fiscal philosophy, but how it has been applied:

What was the tax rate when they assumed their last position and what is it now? What new “revenue sources,” including fees and assessments, did they implement or eliminate? What departmental efficiencies have they effected and what, if any, savings resulted? And since personnel costs are the greater part of operations, at what quartile do they believe staff base compensation should be set in our market? What was the percentage of the last three staff across-the-board or bargaining unit wage increases?

More simply put, follow the money.

That’s always important.

And it’s crucial now.

Yes, our economy may bounce back quickly.

That certainly is our hope.

But when the leader of the most bullet-proof industry in Southwest Florida — health care — starts looking at cost reductions, it might not be a bad idea to assure the same type of “forward looking” leadership is at the Cape’s helm.

Cape Coral Council meetings are broadcast on Cape TV (Comcast Channel 98 and CenturyLink Prism Channel 94) and streamed at www.cape-tv.com.

– Breeze editorial