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Wanted: city manager

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

The hunt is on for a new city manager in Chiefland.

The application deadline is July 7, with the weeding out process—which includes interviews and background checks—lasting until the end of August, when commissioners hope to have hired someone new.

The job description and salary range, $51,198 to $77,309, will remain the same. But in light of recent happenings with former City Manager Kevin Gay, dismissed from his position about three weeks ago, the commission has decided to make a few changes.

“We need to have some sort of process that is fair,” Vice Mayor Teresa Barron said at Monday night’s commission meeting about how future city managers are evaluated.

Barron said Gay didn’t have adequate time or opportunity to make changes in the way he was doing things before having to face an evaluation from the commission.

Mayor Teal Pomeroy suggested having more informal evaluations at stages between the evaluations that come before the commission and are open to the public.

“My feeling is that before someone gets fired, there needs to be some kind of process,” Barron said, adding that the search for a new city manager costs the taxpayers a lot of money.

Pomeroy agreed that, though the specifics still need to be worked on, some type of mechanism needs to be put in place to better evaluate performance.

City Attorney Norm Fugate said it might also be wise to stipulate in the city manager’s contract specific reasons for why the contract could end or be cause for termination.

Commissioner Betty Walker said evaluations, no matter if done in shorter increments or once or twice yearly, need to be written down in a way where it’s clear what is expected.

Interim City Manager Mary Ellzey said there is already a place for written comments on the existing evaluations, as well as space at the end for comments by the city manager. She suggested that, in the future, perhaps city commissioners might want to be more vocal about their concerns regarding job performance.

Commissioners also questioned the self-evaluation that has typically been a part of the review process. Former City Manager Gay, instead of evaluating himself at the review where he was let go, opted to plead the “Fifth Amendment” on every self-evaluation question.

Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris, who undergoes a similar evaluation process each year, said the self-evaluation portion was pointless. “How does one self-evaluate themselves?” he said. Someone could always do the job better, he said. And another could always do it worse.

Harris said there’s little value in how an employee regards their own performance.

Commissioners agreed to address the review process again at the next meeting. Fugate added that commissioners revisit the idea that a 20-week severance, as was the case in Gay’s contract, be kept at four weeks. He also said that reviews might be better handled if not too close to when a contract is set to expire, which, again, was the case with Gay.