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St. Pete Beach hires search firm
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ST. PETE BEACH – The search for a new city manager moved forward with the selection of an executive search firm, at a special St. Pete Beach commission meeting July 10.

The city commission chose Colin Baenziger & Associates, after discussing the merits of each of the five companies that responded to its request for proposal to help find a new city manager. Former City Manager Mike Bonfield was fired in late April.

In a surprise move on April 22, the commission voted 3-2 to terminate Bonfield’s contract. Bonfield served as city manager for 12 years. Elaine Edmunds, the city’s finance director, is the interim city manager.

The commission looked for an executive search firm with experience recruiting a city manager for a coastal community. In the last 17 years, Baenziger, of Daytona Beach Shores, has completed more than 100 successful manager searches including Madeira Beach, Gulfport, Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Key West and Sarasota, according to the company.

“I kind of zeroed in on other cities … all towns that have beaches,” Commissioner Rick Falkenstein said.

This month Baenziger plans to meet with the commission to conduct a needs assessment including the description of the ideal candidate, the elements of the job and the issues the new city manager will face. They also will finalize the search schedule. Under the current tentative project schedule, a new city manager would be selected by mid-October, according to the company’s proposal.

The firm’s proposal will include detailed reports with reference notes, background checks and Internet searches on the candidates presented to the city. The total cost of the firm’s services is $23,000, according to a city document.

“I absolutely enjoyed reading their candidate report. We need the total person not just the credentials … I am of the mindset you get what you pay for. This is very extensive,” said Mayor Maria Lowe.

In June, the city with the assistance of Pinellas County Human Resources conducted a stakeholder analysis of attributes and characters desired by the community in a city manager. The process involved a discussion of leadership attributes that were important to each of five stakeholder groups including businesses, residents, commissioners, direct reports to the city manager and city employees. Trust and integrity, the ability to listen and good communication with business owners and residents prevailed as some of the important attributes, Lowe said.

The candidate recruitment process, screening, reference checks and credential verification is tentatively planned for August and September. This includes the creation of a brochure letting candidates know more about St. Pete Beach.

“I like the way they screen the candidates, each one very thoroughly,” said Commissioner Greg Premer.

The services provided include help with the on-site interview process, contract negotiations and continuing assistance.

“They help with negotiations. They don’t just drop us. They continue to work with us,” said Commissioner Terri Finnerty. “They offered a team building workshop at no additional charge.”

The other executive search firms responding were: The Mercer Group Inc., S. Renee Narloch & Associates, Slavin Management Consultants and Rollie Waters. The total proposed contract costs, with varying services offered, ranged from $13,275 to $24,500, according to a city report.
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