After more than a year, Lake City solidified its city manager position, promoting Paul Dyal from the interim to the permanent role at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
Dyal has worked with the city for more than 10 years as the utilities director and has served as interim city manager since January 2022 after Mike Williams, the previous interim city manager, left for health reasons.
The city council voted 4-1 to approve Dyal, with Council Member Todd Sampson dissenting. The vote finalizes the council’s August decision to make Dyal permanent along with the negotiated contract.
The contract with Dyal gives a $150,000 annual salary that can be evaluated each year along with an annual performance review. The contract also has an indefinite term, ending when either the city or Dyal terminates the contract.
The city hired executive search firm S. Renée Narloch & Associates to fill the manager role while Dyal served as interim. The firm brought back two candidates that the council interviewed. During negotiations to move forward, final candidate, Thomas Thomas, removed himself from the search to accept another offer.
The city asked the executive search firm to conduct a new search but, after four months, felt the firm had failed to produce anyone new or qualified. In June 2022, the council voted to terminate its contract with S. Renée Narloch & Associates and hire a different search firm— Colin Baenziger & Associates.
However, the contract with the new firm never went through, prompting suspicions from Sampson, who accused the mayor on Tuesday of stalling the contract.
Sampson also said Mayor Stephen Witt should recuse himself from the vote and discussion because of a biased relationship with Dyal. Sampson cited a recorded interview from July 2022 of Dyal applying for a city manager position in Alaska and saying the mayor had offered him the Lake City manager role.
“Now, the mayor does not have the ability to unilaterally offer any position to anyone,” Sampson said. “Unless some council conversations were held out of the sunshine, this disclosure makes it clear that the ongoing relationship between the mayor and Mr. Dyal is not an unbiased relationship.”
Witt denied slowing the Baenziger contract in order to promote Dyal, calling it a rumor.
“[City Clerk Audrey Sikes] can tell you anything she’s ever asked me to come and sign that was ready to be signed has been signed on time—that’s for 17 years. I’ve never slowed up anything,” he said.
Despite objects by Sampson of insurance issues and a background check, Council Member Chevella Young made a motion to accept Dyal. Council Member Ricky Jernigan seconded the motion.
Before the vote, Council Member Jake Hill Jr. asked Dyal how the city could be sure that he would stay with the Lake City.
Dyal said he didn’t feel secure in his position with the city at the time of the interview. Multiple conversations about a new search firm and where Dyal would fit had forced him to consider his options, he said on Tuesday.
“Once I commit to something, I’m committed to it,” Dyal said to the council. “The only reason I did [the job interview] at that time is because I didn’t feel secure. As long as I feel secure in this position, I will stay here.”