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June 19, 2014

Finding new town manager for White Springs a challenge

Jasper — The search for a new town manager for the town of White Springs has proven to be a challenge. Former Town Manager Bob Farley’s last day on the job was May 31.

The first advertisement for the position resulted in 25 submitted applications from folks in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Arizona and Maine. Out of those 25, the top five applicants were chosen by town council members through a rating process of qualifications. The day before the interviews with the top five, three of them cancelled. Of the remaining two, the council selected their choice, however, he later declined the position.

The second job posting brought in nine applications: Carl Brown, John O’Neal, Mike Shugart, Sue Beaudet, Timothy Day, William Lawrence, Dr. Alicia Wendlandt, Terry Weter and Matt Daniels. The town council met on Tuesday, June 3, to pick the top six candidates.

Mayor Helen Miller was tasked with contacting each of them to arrange interviews and make sure they were amenable to the salary and could start work in 30 days.

At the June 10 meeting of the town council, Miller advised the board that before she had time to make the phone calls, she discovered a candidate was under investigation by a county sheriff’s office and a county school board for which he worked.

“I felt that he was not an appropriate candidate for the town of White Springs,” said Miller.

Concurrently, Miller said she got an e-mail from Judith Jankosky, Lady Lake, who was one of the original 25 applicants. Jankosky was ranked number two, however, she dropped out due to a medical issue. That medical issue was resolved, so she stated she wanted to re-apply for the position.

Miller said she contacted Town Attorney Fred Koberlein for advice and he said she should bring up the two matters at the next council meeting on June 10, which she did. Miller also gave council members literature on an outside service company, Severn Trent, that provides municipal and town manager services.

“This is something we may want to look at, or this summer when we go through the budget process, and have a workshop to expand our thinking to see if there are alternatives to dealing with the requirements of running town government in the town of White Springs,” Miller explained.

Koberlein said he was familiar with the company and that they handle all the financials for the city of Williston.

“They did indicate that they do provide town manager services,” Miller added.

It was noted that applications are still coming in for the town manager position.

Councilman Willy Jefferson said he wished someone had let him know issues had come up since the June 3 meeting. McKenzie said it would have been a violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law and he said he understood Miller’s dilemma. Miller told Jefferson that she could not simply call him to discuss the candidates one on one, and that because some council members were out of town during the time between the two meetings, it didn’t make sense to call a special meeting.

Koberlein clarified, “The councilors cannot talk about any business that might possibly, by a reasonable person, basically someone with a middle school education, would think that it’s going to come before the council later on for a vote. I would say that any application that comes into city hall here, any reasonable person could say there’s a likelihood that this is going to come up in a meeting.”

Koberlein said the councilors can discuss it with staff, but not with another council member. He suggested that if any more good potential candidates submit applications, that a special meeting be called to discuss among all councilors and to set up an interview time. It was clarified that the mayor can call a special meeting, or two councilors together can call a special meeting if they want to add more applicants to the pool of potentials. They can also set up a special meeting at the interview time. Another alternative is to call Koberlein for advice in order to keep things “in the sunshine” and to avoid any negative perceptions by the public.

The Councilors agreed that Miller would call the selected applicants, plus Jankosky to set up an interview time as soon as possible.

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