Headhunter: Delray commission’s reputation influenced low city manager candidate turnout

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By: Marisa Herman

Associate Editor

Delray Beach is one step closer to finding the city’s next manager.

During a workshop meeting Tuesday, the city discussed a short list of five candidates interested in the top job and narrowed the list down to three finalists.

Before commissioners whittled the list down, headhunter W.D. Higginbotham Jr., the senior vice president of The Mercer Group, said the search yielded what he called a low total of just 36 candidates.

Commissioner Shelly Petrolia asked Higginbotham Jr. if the low turnout had anything to do with the reputation of the commission. The commission is often divided on hot topics in the city and has shuffled through several city managers over the past few years. Currently, the city’s fire chief is serving as interim city manager.

“Did you get anything from any of the candidates or anywhere that people were afraid to come here because of our reputation?” she asked.

Without hesitation, Higginbotham Jr. said, “Yes.”

“The one word answer to that is yes,” he said. “Every candidate I spoke to wants to know the make up of the elected body. I am very candid with them.”

He said he attempted to describe each commissioner to each candidate and they brought up concerns they have after watching the meetings.

“They saw some negative items that brought concern,” he said. “I told them it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”

He said of the 36 candidates, he eliminated 12 people who were not up to par for the Delray job.

“Some were looking to retire here in Florida and that was an immediate deal breaker,” he said. “Some were just not qualified.”

He said candidates not interested in the challenges Delray presents withdrew their applications. He said a good manager will be able to handle those tough issues. He also said the candidates on the short list would be capable of leading the city.

Mayor Cary Glickstein pointed out that the city’s upcoming March election has the ability to possibly change the majority of the commissioners. Three seats, including the mayor’s, are up for election in March. Commissioner Petrolia has filed to run for mayor and Commissioner Mitch Katz has filed to run for his current seat. That means whoever is hired may not be supported by the newly elected body. City managers serve at the pleasure of the commission.

Commissioners narrowed down the list to Edwards Collins, Mark Lauzier and David Niemeyer.

Collins has served as the COO of Civil Service Inc. and City Manager of Lehi, UT. Lauzier has served as the Assistant City Manager of Tacoma, WA, County Manager of Page County, VA and City Manager of the city of Parkland.  Niemeyer has served as the Village Manager of two municipalities in Illinois.

The city’s timeline to select the next manager is scheduled for Oct. 10. Before then, the city will coordinate interviews with the finalists.