Lake City restarts manager search

Lake City must restart its city manager search after its final candidate, Thomas Thomas, withdrew during final negotiations.

The city council found out on Saturday after Thomas sent an email simply stating that he was withdrawing his name from the position.

“Needless to say, I’m disappointed in the way this fell apart at the end,” Council Member Eugene Jefferson said at Monday night’s regular council meeting.

The city council held a special meeting on Jan. 29 in order to hash out final negotiations. After an initial offer and counter, the council offered a $135,000 salary with immediate benefits, extra time off and paid moving expenses.

Council Member Todd Sampson said he was concerned about a disconnect between the information the city was releasing about salary and what candidates were expecting.

“I’m just concerned we went through this process, we had two people and evidently they weren’t as serious as we thought about this position,” Sampson said. “Now, I understand they were both interviewing at other places at the same time, but to get to the end of negotiation and then find out that they’re not interested in the salary range as advertised is a real concern.”

Sampson said one of the final four candidates had told the council they were only looking for jobs in the $175,000 range—roughly $45,000 more than the city wanted.

He said the city will look to Renée Narloch, who the city hired to conduct the city manager search, for next steps. Mayor Stephen Witt said Narloch was already reaching out to find more candidates.

Narloch informed the council that Thomas had accepted an offer at a different firm.

Public comment brought some questions about Narloch, CEO of executive recruitment firm S. Renée Narloch & Associates, and whether the city could find a new firm to conduct the search.

Witt said the city should be able to cancel the contract at any time though he didn’t know the exact parameters of the contract.

Utility Director Paul Dyal will continue as interim city manager. He took over the role after the previous interim manager left in December with health issues.

The search for a new city manager started in June 2021 when the council fired former manager Joe Helfenberger. They replaced him with former human resources director Ami Fields, who Helfenberger had fired himself weeks before.

Fields then submitted her resignation in September.

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