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St. Pete Beach plucks nearby manager

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 30, 2001

ST. PETE BEACH -- Michael Bonfield, the Madeira Beach city manager who helped snag grants to refurbish the city's tired-looking John's Pass Village, will likely be the next city manager in St. Pete Beach.

City commissioners on Thursday selected Bonfield as their top pick to replace Carl Schwing, the former city manager who resigned suddenly in July. Bonfield and Mayor Ward Friszolowski are still negotiating the new city manager's salary and benefits.

Bonfield's new job will move him about 7 miles south on Gulf Boulevard to the biggest beach city. It will also bring Bonfield closer to Gulfport, where he grew up and where he worked for 17 years.

As he did while working for Madeira Beach, Bonfield, 42, plans to continue living in Gulfport with his wife and three children while working for St. Pete Beach.

"I think as far as this profession goes, this will be about as smooth a transition as you can get," he said of the move.

In Madeira Beach, Bonfield earned $76,131 annually. St. Pete Beach advertised that its new city manager would earn in the high $80,000s to the low $90,000s.

Commissioners' rankings placed Bonfield clearly in front of the No. 2 pick, V. Peter Schneider, the deputy city manager of Sarasota. Closely behind Schneider were Paul Williams, director of community services in Gulfport, and Chris Brimo, the assistant city manager in St. Pete Beach who has been acting city manager since Schwing's departure.

Ranking on the low end were two candidates from Ohio and Rhode Island. They were the top choices of City Commissioner Jim Myers, the only commissioner who ranked Bonfield toward the rear of the pack.

"I look mainly for experience," Myers said. "I did not have any reservations about hiring somebody from out of town."

St. Pete Beach Mayor Ward Friszolowski said he ran into Madeira Beach Mayor Tom DeCesare at a mayors' luncheon shortly after Schwing's departure. Even then, there was speculation in St. Pete Beach that Bonfield would be a serious contender for Schwing's job.

"Tom looked at me and said, "Don't try to steal our city manager,"' Friszolowski recalled.

Now Madeira, less than half the size of St. Pete Beach, will start searching for Bonfield's replacement.

"His being selected No. 1 was no surprise to me," DeCesare said. "He's done a wonderful job for Madeira Beach, and I would expect another city would recognize that."

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