Search to replace Judd as city manager moves to next step

By Kile Brewer
Posted 7/18/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The search for the new Green Cove Springs city manager is narrowed down to 12 semi-finalists after a meeting last week.

After current City Manager Danielle Judd announced …

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Search to replace Judd as city manager moves to next step

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The search for the new Green Cove Springs city manager is narrowed down to 12 semi-finalists after a meeting last week.

After current City Manager Danielle Judd announced early in 2018 that she would not be seeking another contract at the end of this year, the council voted to hire a search firm to collect applications and find ideal candidates who could attempt to fill Judd’s shoes.

At its March 21 meeting, the council voted to hire the Texas-based firm Strategic Government Resources, which has been collecting applications since the spring.

Last Thursday was the council’s first update since the application period had opened, and then closed. Sixty-four candidates applied for the position and SGR narrowed that pool down to the 40 candidates, a pool they thought would be most appropriate for the city. Doug Thomas, a senior vice president at SGR, presented the applicants to all five members of the city council.

During the presentation, council members were instructed to mark down a number between 1-3 for each with 1 being the top score. This process, called the triage by Thomas, would narrow the candidates down to what would become known as the semi-finalists.

Through the triage, not much is known about the candidates. All the information presented Thursday was the same that could be found on a resume.

“We’re going to know a little about a lot of people at the front end of the process,” Thomas said. “By the time we get down to [the finalists] we’re going to know everything possible about those individuals.”

Candidates were presented to the council from all walks of life including former police and military, some lawyers, and others who had a more traditional background in city government. Each applicant was given a place in the presentation with one or two slides outlining their background.

About half, 23, of the 64 total applicants were from Florida. Six applicants came from both Georgia and Michigan and the rest spanned the map with some from Alaska, California, Texas and other states. Assistant City Manager and Public Works Director Mike Null served as the only internal candidate currently working for the city.

Thomas moved through the candidates quickly, but with precision. The goal was to be as objective as possible and give each person a fair chance at receiving the coveted “1” vote.

Council members listened carefully and wrote down their votes, but asked questions about length of time spent in a job, why they chose to apply and whether or not they intended to live within the city limits. Thomas answered what he could, and other questions were written down for use in the next step of the process.

Both council members Van Royal and Mitch Timberlake questioned why several of the candidates seemed to have moved around a lot between jobs and even states.

“Normally city managers are hired and fired with enthusiasm but rarely by the same board,” Thomas said. “In many cases you can walk on water with the council who hired you, but organizations change and communities change and councils change.”

Thomas said that after an election, city managers often wonder whether or not they’ll still have a job once their contract expires, because when the council changes their direction they typically look at replacing city staff as a means of seeing quick change.

Following the presentation, the votes for each of the 40 were tallied and, similar to golf scoring, the candidates with the lowest scores were moved forward into the next round of consideration. The city elected to move forward with 12 candidates, including Null, and kept another three to serve as reserve options. Thomas said this is customary because sometimes candidates chosen as semi-finalists will pull themselves from consideration as the next step involves a lot more work on their end and they could be further along in another search. Council member Pam Lewis asked what percentage of the chosen semi-finalists typically choose to pull their names, and Thomas said there is no set standard.

“We’re about to ask them to do a lot of work,” he said. “It’s one thing to send a resume and a cover letter in, and another thing to take it to the next step. Typically, we’ll lose one or two.”

Thomas said that the 12 semi-finalists would be issued a questionnaire and required to submit a video interview back to SGR. The firm will then compile the candidates’ answers into a briefing book, which will also include more information and a full biography on each of the semi-finalists, and, along with the videos, given to members of the council prior to the next public meeting at 9 a.m. on Aug. 1. In that meeting, council will narrow the pool of 12 to 3-5 finalists who will report back to the city in person sometime in late August or early September for interviews with the council.

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