REDINGTON SHORES — Commissioners have chosen a town administrator to handle executive and administrative duties previously handled by the commissioners themselves.

He is Jeff Shoobridge, who has been the city administrator of Madison Lake, Minnesota, population 1,000, for the past two years. Shoobridge had lived in Central Florida for most of his life. 

The commission picked Shoobridge over Lisa Hendrickson, a Redington Shores resident who is assistant city manager of Pinellas Park, at a special meeting Feb. 24.

Shoobridge was the favorite of Commissioners Jennie Blackburn, Cinda Krouk and Bill Krajewski. An initial motion by Commissioner Michael Robinson to hire Hendrickson failed in a 3-2 vote. Hendrickson was supported by Mayor MaryBeth Henderson, along with Robinson.

A new motion by Blackburn to offer the job to Shoobridge passed 4-1, with Robinson joining Blackburn, Krouk and Krajewski, in what he said was a show of unity.

In voting no, Henderson said: “I agree with what Vice Mayor Robinson said, but I’m still going to vote no. I’m not going to be against (Shoobridge), but I don’t think he’s the right candidate.”

The town administrator was selected following lengthy interviews with the three finalists for the job, held the previous week. Those interviewed had also included Ron Neibert of Eustis, Florida, who dropped out before the final selection was held.

The commission members who voted for Shoobridge had little to say about him at the meeting.

Krouk said she had “really great interviews with both candidates. I think it’s a tough decision.”

Krajewski said, “After all the interviews, reference checks and background checks, I am comfortable with the decision I’ve made.”

Blackburn made no comments on the candidates.

Henderson said one of her concerns with Shoobridge was his lack of emergency management experience. Shoobridge had told her he was turned down for a job in Mexico Beach, Florida, for that reason. That town in the Florida Panhandle was hard hit by Hurricane Michael in 2018.

“What makes us any different?” Henderson said she told Shoobridge. “Because we could be the next Mexico Beach, and you have no emergency management experience at all.” 

Another drawback expressed by both Henderson and Robinson is that Shoobridge has said he most likely would only be in Redington Shores for a short period, perhaps three years, before wanting to move on.

In his job application, Shoobridge detailed some of his accomplishments at Madison Lake, such as streamlining operations while implementing a new accounting software system that resulted in cost savings to the city, renegotiating a sewer treatment agreement with a neighboring city resulting in cost savings, and implementing a health plan for full-time city employees that increased their benefits while reducing overall costs to the city.

Included with Shoobridge’s application was an “exemplary” evaluation of his performance that was done by the city attorney in connection with his recent contract renewal. The letter written by City Attorney Jason Moran to the City Council recommends a salary increase, and describes his performance as “not simply satisfactory, it is exemplary.”

It says:  “Jeff (Shoobridge) consistently strives to improve the city. His work on the Capital Improvement Plan is excellent. He is constantly looking for ways to save the city money and improve the budget outlook. For the first time in a very long time we have a solid and well-prepared budget. He holds the employees accountable while encouraging them to do their best. He has excellent communication skills and this is apparent in how he deals with residents. He tackles challenges with ease and is personable. His knowledge of municipal matters is excellent. In sum, his performance is, in my opinion, exceptional.”

Henderson and Town Attorney Rob Eschenfelder were appointed to meet with Shoobridge to negotiate a contract to serve as town administrator. 

The commission agreed on two conditions that should be in the contract — that the term be a minimum of two years, and that the town administrator must live in Pinellas County. Beyond that, commissioners were open to providing a reimbursement on relocation expenses, but in general they wanted the mayor and attorney to have the flexibility to negotiate on other details.

City Clerk Mary Palmer said the two parties had reached agreement on a contract, but the document needs to be brought to the commission for review and approval. The topic is on the agenda for the March 9 commission meeting.