City of Oldsmar officials pose with newly appointed City Manager Al Braithwaite (center) shortly after the 18-year employee was informed he was chosen to succeed outgoing City Manager Bruce Haddock on Oct. 1.
OLDSMAR – City of Oldsmar officials decided to stay in-house when selecting a successor for retiring City Manager Bruce Haddock, choosing current Director of Administrative Services Al Braithwaite from a pool of more than 80 candidates.
The news came during a work session that was supposed to see the City Council whittle the final candidate list from 10 to two or three, with Haddock’s successor expected to be chosen sometime in late August.
However, once they started reviewing the information gathered by a national consulting firm, officials knew they didn’t have to look very far to replace Haddock, who will step down from a position he has held for more than 30 years on Oct. 1.
“I think the process did exactly what we hoped it would do, which is tell us what we didn’t know,” Mayor Doug Bevis said after the work session on July 20. “We had a lot of very good candidates, but I think we all felt very strongly about the internal candidate.”
The process of searching for Haddock’s replacement began in February. Fire Chief Dean O’Nale and City Attorney Tom Trask led the effort that included hiring consultant Art Davis of the Minneapolis based Springstead/Waters Executive Recruitment agency.
While the council members were quick to praise Davis’ work, which included compiling a book of personal and professional information on each candidate as well as video submissions, as well as the quality of the candidates, the deeper they got into the process the quicker they realized the right person for the job was right under their noses.
“My thoughts are this – you brought us 10 good candidates, and three great candidates, but only one feels right,” Council member Eric Seidel told Davis. “I think we’ve done our due diligence, and I feel strongly this is the right choice.”
Council member Gabby McGee concurred, saying, “I feel the same way,” while Council member Jerry Beverland explained why he was a staunch advocate of promoting Braithwaite from the very beginning.
“He’s the only one who knows this city,” Beverland said. “He breathes this city!”
Haddock also endorsed his successor, telling the group, “I think you made the right choice.”
After the motion passed by a unanimous 5-0 vote, Haddock called Braithwaite over to the Council Chambers from City Hall.
Once he arrived Braithwaite, an 18-year veteran of the City’s finance department, the last seven in his current position, was given the news and accepted hugs and handshakes from everyone in the room.
“I’m super he excited,” the understated man known as ‘Big Al’ said. “Bruce’s legacy is going to be difficult to follow, but after working under him for 18 years and knowing him for 30, I think I’ve learned a lot and I am ready to apply that knowledge to this new position.”
When asked about the transition period, Braithwaite said he believed it would be a smooth one.
“The learning curve is what it is, but I believe I have an advantage being the internal candidate,” he said. “I am familiar with the process, I’ll just be seeing it from a different angle now.”
After the meeting, Davis said he was somewhat surprised by the Council’s earlier-than-expected final decision, but he respected it.
‘“We had a very strong candidate pool, because of the quality of the community, the stability of the governing body and the strong city staff, so many applicants wanted to work here,” Davis said. “You had a good, strong qualified group of candidates being considered, so it was tough to narrow it down.”
“But I think Al is imminently qualified and will be a great City Manager,” he added. “The Council decided tonight if everybody was feeling the same way, it would save a lot of work by making the decision now. And I have no problem with that.”
According to officials, the timeframe to replace Haddock remains in place. Braithwaite will take office on Oct. 1, while Haddock will move out of City Hall and work from home until his contract expires on January 31, 2018. During the first meeting launching the search, Haddock said he anticipated a smooth transition, regardless of who took over.
“My objective is to make the transition as smooth as possible,” he said on Feb. 14. “I’m just going to fade into the background. We won’t have two City Managers at one time. The day we hire a new City Manager, we will have one City Manager.”