CLEARWATER — For the first time in 20 years, the city of Clearwater will be looking for a new person to lead its more than 1,600 employees.
After years of discussing his retirement plans, City Manager Bill Horne earlier this year said that time was near.
In preparation for the transition, the City Council on March 4 approved a $26,500 contract with the Baker Tilly consulting firm to conduct a nationwide search to find the city’s next chief executive officer.
“This is a big deal,” Mayor Frank Hibbard said. “This is something we need to take very seriously. I think those who chose Mr. Horne, chose extraordinarily wisely. It’s unheard of to have a city manager for 20 years, and this will affect years to come. So, I want to do as good a job as the folks did back in 2001 in picking Mr. Horne.”
Horne, a retired Air Force colonel, was hired by Clearwater in September 1998. He took over the city manager post on an interim basis in July 2000 and got the job permanently in 2001, where he has remained to lead the city with a steady hand ever since.
In February, the city put the executive recruiting services out to bid and Baker Tilley was one of nine qualified firms to respond.
Council member Hoyt Hamilton said Baker Tilley was a wise choice because it also conducted the most recent search for a county administrator.
“So, they know our area. They know the demographics of our area, so they really got kind of a head start,” he said.
Human Resources Director Jennifer Poirrier said the three-phase project is estimated to take about 120 days and will start right away.
If the council desires, options for public involvement could include a survey or interaction with the finalists in the later stages.
According to Baker Tilley’s proposal, the salary range for those finalists will be between $212,000 and $275,000.
When asked how desirable the position is, project manager Art Davis of Baker Tilly said he thinks it will be a very sought-after position, citing the location and track record of having a longtime city manager.
“I think the key is we’ve got to find candidates that aren’t necessarily out looking for jobs, but people that are content and happy in their current position,” he said. “So we need to have enough time to really get some good, strong candidates to pique their interest and have them take a look at the job.”
He said the council should have a wide range of people from which to choose.
“We’re going to get you the best, most qualified candidates and it’s going to be a diverse pool of candidates in all senses in the definition of diversity,” he said.