INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Among the four candidates for the open city manager job in Indian Rocks Beach last week was Steve Cottrell who spent eight years as town manager of nearby Belleair.
The City Commission is far from making any decision because it continues to advertise for more candidates and has set a January 15 deadline for applications.
What is unusual about the procedure is that the job at stake is "interim" city manager and this approach is so fraught with potholes many are wondering why the commission does not cut to the chase and hire a manager.
The manager's job in IRB has been unsettled and unstable since Tom Brobeil left several years ago.
John Coffey, who had been Brobeil's assistant, was hired on a full-time basis after a probationary period, but he got into trouble with the commission on the heels of a palace revolution.
Instead of the city manager being allowed to be the decision maker in terms of the administration, the commission got involved in Coffey's job and the upshot was that he left in August, 2005.
Indian Rocks Beach's elected officials have not learned that meddling and micro-managing a city manager just does not work.
Nor does hiring a manager who is constantly seeking another job work. That is the experience the city is now emerging from.
But what boggles the minds of IRB citizens who follow their government closely is why the commission would seek an interim city manager when the same effort could produce a full-time, permanent person in the job.
Whatever the wisdom is of taking the process of filling the position with a two-step method is lost on most observers in the city and on one member of the commission, Jose Coppen, who has pressed to hire permanent person and be done with it.
One theory is that at least one member of the commission wants a manager who is a "bean bag"; that is, totally malleable to the ideas of the elected official and who will carry out, like an amanuensis, his policies and ideas. A master and puppet situation, as it were.
Usually interim appointments come from within and are seen as a stop-gap measure. That is, let someone on the scene, within city hall, familiar with the procedures, handle the bureaucratic levers until a permanent person is hired.
That is what happened when Eric Meserve left IRB almost 10 years ago and Mary Karayianes, the city treasurer, took over on an interim basis and did a creditable job.
There is a two-pronged question from many - Why would the city want a two-step process and why would anyone seek only an interim position?
The pitfalls in IRB now hiring an interim person from outside while a search continues for a permanent hire are many.
First off, there is no commitment from either party. Second, the job is equally as interim to the person hired as to the city. Therefore, nothing really gets done. There is no vision for the future.
Third, while the city is looking for a permanent person, the interim manager is likewise looking for a permanent job - somewhere else. IRB has experienced that over the course of this calendar year with a man who was supposedly a permanent hire.
Fourth, sooner or later the process of seeking, interviewing and hiring has to be done all over again. That could go on forever.
As it is, the city now functionally has no city manager, the present incumbent having been guaranteed a job until mid January with no reciprocal guarantee of performance. In fact, he has already been at his new position near Sebring, meeting with employees there.
Perhaps the hope among the candidates now for the interim position is that they will be elevated to permanency. And maybe the commission hopes that an interim manager will work out.
Which turns the whole process into a game like blackjack or a visit to the race track.
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