The two top candidates for city manager mingled with the public and city officials at the Dunedin Public Library June 22. Jennifer Bramley, flanked by Dunedin civic activist Harry Steinman and city Commissioner Heather Gracy, chat with attendees. Bramley was offered the position June 26. The other candidate was Kevin Cowper, the assistant city manager of Auburn, Alabama.
DUNEDIN – City commissioners June 26 offered the position of city manager to a Coral Springs administrator, touting her energy level, skills and ability to communicate with the community.
City officials will now start salary negotiations with Jennifer Bramley, 52, the deputy manager of Coral Springs, who was selected over the other top candidate, Kevin Cowper, the assistant city manager of Auburn, Alabama.
Commissioners’ initial ballot was 4-1 for Bramley, but the final vote to hire her was unanimous, ending weeks of interviews and discussions with applicants. The city had received 75 applications for the position.
“I think for me personally and kind of what I heard from department heads and the community and all the people that I know all of us took the time to talk to in the last couple of weeks, it really boiled down to the energy level that Jennifer brought to the interview process,” said Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski.
Commissioner Heather Gracy said it was a tough decision but Bramley had the edge because of the energy she displayed to the community and the interactions she has had so far with the city.
She also said the city would be served well by either candidate.
“When push comes to shove and the rubber meets the road, it was Jennifer Bramley for me,” Gracy said.
Commissioner Deborah Kynes said she thought Bramley and Cowper were great candidates and had strong skills, but she felt Bramley was the best fit for Dunedin.
Commissioner Moe Freaney complimented Renee Narloch, whose firm conducted the search for the city manager, and Theresa Smalling, city director of Human Resources & Risk Management.
“I think we have gone through a great process,” she said.
Both candidates have good skill sets and strong development backgrounds, Freaney said.
“I really felt that Jennifer is probably the best fit for the community in terms of her personality style and maybe her management style,” she said.
Though he cast his initial vote for Cowper, Commissioner John Tornga agreed with the mayor’s request that the vote to offer the position to Bramley be unanimous.
“I concur with everything that has been said up here,” he said near the end of the discussion. “It’s said well and I am very supportive of all of what we are doing. I look forward to going forward as we continue the elements that make Dunedin what it is,” he said.
Bramley joined the city of Coral Springs in 1990. According to information provided to city officials, Bramley was directly responsible for the programming, design, financing and construction management of the municipal complex and adjacent 607-space parking garage in Coral Springs.
She directed Coral Springs economic development efforts, which resulted in development of the Economic Development Strategic Plan, recruitment of Hoerbiger, Cleveland Clinic, Lucky’s Market, Orchard Supply and retention of 1,520 jobs and creation of 1,093 jobs.
She drafted and implemented the city of Coral Springs Public Art Program, which had resulted in the placement of over 50 art pieces throughout the city.
She left Coral Springs in 2007 to become director of community development for the city of Tamarac, returning to Coral Springs in 2013 as deputy city manager.
At a meet and greet session at the Dunedin Public Library, both top applicants talked to numerous residents.
Asked in an interview about what attracted her to Dunedin that night, Bramley said it’s on the water, in close proximity to a big metro area.
“You got all the benefits of a small waterfront community with a great active fun downtown,” she said. “It’s great environment, beautiful,” she said.
Her first priority, she said, would be to spend some time listening to all of the different city stakeholders, such as the residents, the businesses, the chamber of commerce, the neighborhood association.
“All of the different people that make up the community. Just kind of listen, understand what they see. What they are concerned about,” she said.
Commissioners first discussed the recommended candidates and some others with Narloch at a meeting May 31. Her firm heavily recruited nationwide and in Florida for the position.
“We targeted coastal communities in looking to bring folks to Dunedin that have that experience because we understand the importance of the economic impact on the city,” Narloch said.
At that meeting, Freaney asked Narloch how the pool holds up to other recruitment processes that she has done. Narloch said she thinks the candidates are solid.
“Do we have a rock star in here? I don’t know. I think that’s yet to be determined. But I do think we have some really good candidates that you are going to be really excited about once you talk to them,” Narloch said.
Judging by their comments, commissioners are pleased with the outcome after several interviews with the candidates.
“I had a really calm, happy weekend where Dunedin is going forward. I felt at ease. I felt peaceful. It’s been a long time since I really felt that way,” Ward Bujalski said.
Commissioners also lavished praise on interim manager Doug Hutchens, who plans to retire soon, for assuming the role after former City Manager Rob DiSpirito left in January 2016.
“That wonderful strength, stability and integrity and I thank you,” Kynes said, referring to Hutchens.
According to the city’s recruitment brochure, the salary range for the position is open. Commissioners asked that City Attorney Tom Trask lead the salary negotiations.