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Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 12, 2012 5 years ago

Our View: 3 ideas for a city manager


And what would you say if the mayor of Sarasota called you and said, “I know we told you two weeks ago you weren’t good enough for me and my four City Commission colleagues, but now we have changed our minds. We’d like to offer you the city manager job.”?

To be polite, you probably would say: “Thank you, I appreciate the offer and confidence in me, but I think I’m going to stay where I am.” All the while you’re saying that, you’re thinking: “And you think I would now want to go to work for you guys? Are you kidding?”

And, really, are they serious? The commissioners are thinking they might want to try to persuade one of the four finalists they rejected to take the job?

Too late, commissioners. You’ve built a dirty nest, and now you have to sleep in it and figure out how to clean it up.

Here are suggestions on the latter:

1) Replace outgoing Interim City Manager Terry Lewis with Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown. Promote Brown to interim city manager and tell him the job is his to lose.

We know he and former City Manager Bob Bartolotta are under investigation for alleged email scrubbing. But if Brown hasn’t been dismissed for that up to now, let it play out. The fact he is still deputy city manager says he has credibility and adds value to the organization.

Give him the opportunity to rise to the occasion. What’s more, he knows the city and City Hall.

If Bartolotta thought enough of Brown to appoint Brown as his top assistant, that is tantamount to Bartolotta saying he had enough confidence in Brown to lead the city’s day-to-day operations in the event the proverbial bus knocked Bartolotta out.

Commissioners Paul Caragiulo and Shannon Snyder should take one for the team. Get over their buggaboos about Brown being a Bartolotta guy. Express reservations about Brown, and then add: “I hope for the city he proves me wrong.”

2) Appoint Mayor Suzanne Atwell as interim city manager. That would be a wonderful test for what it would be like to have an elected CEO mayor.

This idea will bring scoffs and “you can’t do that” comments, but all the charter says about hiring a city manager is he/she “shall be appointed solely on the basis of professional qualifications.”

Some might argue Atwell doesn’t have the professional qualifications. But neither does the charter say what those qualifications must be.

3) Advertise locally for another interim city manager who will agree to serve for up to two years. The executive talent pool in Greater Sarasota is deep (Remember Jody Hudgins?). Once appointed, Mayor Atwell, commissioners and neighborhood association and business leaders should form a coalition to draft an acceptable charter amendment that would shift the city’s governance to an elected CEO mayor.

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