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Politics

Two internal manager options

By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published May 10, 2007


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LARGO - Nearly two months after making national news for firing its gender-changing city manager, the Largo City Commission is expected to hire his replacement from in house.

The recent internal turmoil - combined with concern Florida's Legislature might slash local government's property tax collections in a June special session - prompted the majority of the commission Tuesday night to push for picking Steve Stanton's permanent replacement from two inhouse candidates.

Acting City Manager Norton "Mac" Craig and Assistant City Manger Henry P. Schubert have both expressed interest in becoming Largo's next manager.

"Stability, that's what we need right now, " Commissioner Gigi Arntzen said. "It's not just the Legislature, but with what we have gone through. Right now, we need stability."

"It's best to stay with someone who knows who we are, knows our staff, " Commissioner Gay Gentry said, particularly since the city will likely face significant budget cuts if the Legislature acts.

But Largo Mayor Pat Gerard expressed a need to conduct a national search. Gerard said by the time a manager would be hired, the Legislature will have acted and the city's budget process for the 2007-08 year, which begins in October, will be complete.

"The blood will have already been shed and we will have what we have, " Gerard said

The Largo City Commission fired City Manager Steve Stanton in March, shortly after he disclosed his plans to begin living as a woman and to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Stanton is currently a finalist for the city manager's job in Sarasota, where he applied as Susan Stanton, the name he plans to assume later this month as he begins living as a woman.

Stanton was paid $140, 234 annually to lead the city's 1, 000 employees and oversee a $130-million budget. A search firm would cost an estimated $20, 000. Gerard said the city would be "making a serious mistake" if it doesn't move with caution.

Vice Mayor Harriet Crozier started the conversation of an internal search with a recommendation that the city offer Craig a three-year contract, saying his is a strong leader with people skills. Crozier said that Craig would be looking to retire in three years and at that time, Largo can start a search for another manager.

Commissioner Rodney Woods raised the question of why Craig and not Schubert, a 27-year city veteran - though he said he supports hiring internally.

Commissioner Mary Gray Black threw her support behind Schubert saying that "Henry has been around for so long." Black gave Schubert credit for the city's new library and touted his technology and financial knowledge and his people skills.

The City Commission decided to ask Craig and Schubert to submit updated resumes, explain their vision for the city and why they want the job. The two will be interviewed. And the human resources director was directed to inquire how other cities have handled hiring a manager from in house.

Both men, longtime friends, said they had no problem with the commission's plan and will work together well, regardless of who gets the job.

Schubert, who has held a variety of administrative posts with the city including city clerk, said, "Selecting a city manager is one of the most important decisions a city has to make and they have to make sure they have one they are comfortable with."

Craig, who is on vacation in Texas, said he already planned to submit a new resume. "I would have done that no matter what the commission would have done."

He has been with the city for seven years, four of those as director of environmental services, the rest as an assistant city manager.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 9, 2007, 22:53:19]


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