Delray Commission Selects Michael Cernech As New City Manager, Negotiations Underway


Staff report

The longtime city manager of Tamarac will soon take charge of the city of Delray Beach.

Delray commissioners selected Michael Cernech to serve as the city’s new city manager in a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Shirley Johnson cast the sole dissenting vote.

Cernech edged out two other finalists also vying for the job, George Gretsas, the city manager of Homestead and Joseph Napoli, the deputy city manager of Miami.

“It’s like trying to say which one of your sons is your favorite son,” Commissioner Bill Bathurst said of the three finalists. “It’s a very good position to be in.”

Bathurst called Cernech a “Steady Eddy,” someone who could bring stability to the city. Delray has gone through several city managers since city manager David Harden retired in 2012. Current interim city manager Neal de Jesus, who is the city’s fire chief, has stepped in to fill the role twice.

While Mayor Shelly Petrolia ranked Gretsas as her No. 1 choice, she said, “I don’t think that there was a way that we could really go wrong here.”

Commissioner Adam Frankel selected Cernech as his top pick.

“We were very fortunate to have three very qualified finalists,” he said. “However Mr. Cernech. in my view, was the best fit for our residents, taxpayers and city staff.”

Frankel said Cernech comes highly recommended and has a temperament that he feels will work well with the city of Delray.

For Commissioner Ryan Boylston Cernech was the best choice to represent the city city of Delray.

Cernech was appointed to the city manager role in Tamarac in 2011. Prior, he served as deputy city manager and assistant manager. He has been employed by the city of Tamarac since 2001 where he served in various roles including interim director of financial services, interim director of public works, as well as interim director of community development.

Cernech has a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from the University of Detroit and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Trinity University.

During the public portion of the finalists’ interviews, Cernech wasted no time digging into areas of the city’s budget and sharing ways he thinks the budget can be improved.

He named investing in infrastructure as a top priority for the city. In doing so, he said residents see how the city is investing in its neighborhoods.

“You have very robust capital improvement plans,” he said. “All the elements are there, It’s just a manner of pulling it all together.”

As far as his leadership style, he said he sets the tone at the top.

“People have to know and understand how committed I’ll be to the organization,” he said. “I will be here for the long haul.”

Cernech’s start date, salary and other benefits will be negotiated with the city attorney and mayor. His predecessor Mark Lauzier made $235,000 when he was hired and was awarded a 4 percent raise to bring his salary to $244,000 just months before he was fired.

The city advertised the open position to pay between $200,000 and $270,000 a year.

“I’m both humbled and honored to have been selected to be Delray Beach’s next City Manager,” Cernech said. “I appreciate the confidence the Mayor, Vice-Mayor and Commissioners have placed in me. I look forward to making a difference in Delray Beach.”

That employment agreement with the city will come before commissioners for approval at a future meeting. The commission’s next scheduled meeting is Sept. 5. It is unclear if the agreement will be completed by then.