The city of Gainesville will open an internal search for an interim after City Clerk Omichele Nattiel-Williams submitted her resignation in April.
The decision at Thursday's regular meeting will mean a potential of two national searches later this year to fill the clerk position as well as the city auditor position.
Former City Auditor Ginger Bigbie left the city in January. The city staff said the process to open a nationwide search hit a problem with the contract. The ongoing contract with a search firm had lapsed, but a new contract should be in place within a month to move the search forward.
Nattiel-Williams, who took the position in 2018, will stay with the city until June 30, with the option to extend for another 90 days if needed. She offered and then withdrew her resignation in the fall of 2021.
"Unknown to me at the time, there were several other departures taking place that weighed heavily on my decision to rescind my resignation and remain to provide stability within the city's leadership team,” Nattiel-Williams said in her resignation letter.
The city commission had three options: to appoint an interim (commissioners mentioned Deputy Clerk Zanorfa Lynch as an option), conduct an internal search for an interim or conduct a national search.
Commissioner Reina Saco said the City Commission has traditionally appointed an interim from existing staff. That happened previously with Gainesville Regional Utilities General Manager Tony Cunningham and with the appointment of interim city auditor Brecka Anderson.
However, the commission has also executed searches, finding City Manager Cynthia Curry through an external search and City Attorney Daniel Nee and Director of Equity and Inclusion Zeriah Folston through internal searches.
Saco said she preferred to appoint an interim before continuing with a national search later. This option, she said, would save time from an internal search. Chestnut and Commissioner Ed Book also voiced support for this option.
The commission enters a recess for July, and Mayor Harvey Ward said June 22 will be the final commission meeting before the break. He said the commission should look to have an interim by then.
Commissioner Casey Willits moved that the city conduct an internal search for the interim city clerk position before having the nationwide search later.
The internal application period typically lasts 30 days, and Saco asked if Willits would add a condition that limits the period to 15 days.
She said city employees already know the conversation is happening and whether or not they want to apply. The 15 days will ensure the commission can appoint an interim by June 22. Willits agreed.
The commission voted 4-2 on the motion with commissioners Cynthia Chestnut and Desmon Duncan-Walker in dissent.
The commission finalized contracts with three interim charter officers in February, moving them into permanent positions. At that meeting, the commission asked the mayor to continue working on the contract for Folston, rejecting the salary amount and directing Ward to look at similar positions nationwide.
Ward said in an interview Friday that Folston’s contract should finish in the next couple of days and hopefully make it onto a May agenda. He said the position is unique across the county. While many cities have equity departments, most report to the city manager or human resources and not the commission itself as a charter officer.
"Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Saco advocated for an interim clerk."