The Lake City Council narrowed down its candidates for city manager and is now working through the negotiating process with lone finalist Thomas Thomas.
At a special meeting on Saturday morning, the council countered the contract offer Thomas made and decided to pick the item back up at the next regular council meeting on Feb. 7.
The city is offering Thomas a $130,00 annual salary, two weeks additional time off per year, immediate benefits, relocation expenses and life insurance equal to his annual salary.
Thomas had asked for $140,000 for salary in response to the city’s initial proposal of $120,000.
Council Member Todd Sampson said if Thomas could give a little on the salary side, taking less than he countered, then the city could give on the length of the contract and increasing it to three years.
Sampson made clear, though, that Thomas would be expected to perform.
“It’s just like hiring a football coach,” Sampson said. “You got three years. If you don’t do what you need to do in three years, you’re going to be unemployed.”
In his email counter, Thomas asked for an annual evaluation with goals set each year. The council agreed that having an annual review and setting those goals will make it easier to track progress.
The motion on Saturday also allowed for some room to increase salary to $135,000 depending on how soon Thomas could start. Thomas set a time frame of on or before March 31. The council members asked for March 1 or earlier, if possible.
“We need him as soon as we can get him,” council member Eugene Jefferson said. “Personally, I would like to have him here earlier than March 1.”
The city budgeted for a $130,000 city manager salary, but Sampson said an increase over that would still work as the city has spent less than that in the previous months.
Interim City Manager Mike Williams resigned in December due to health reasons, leaving the city a gap before the council selected one of the permanent candidates.
Williams nominated Utility Director Paul Dyal to fill in until the council could install a replacement.
Besides agreeing on terms, the city must also complete a final background check on Thomas. Initial checks were completed on all candidates, but with Thomas selected as the top choice, the Lake City Police Department will dive deeper as a precaution.
The council landed on two final candidates coming into 2022 and interviewed Glen Adams on Jan. 7 and Thomas on Jan. 18 before settling on Thomas.
Most recently, Thomas has served as interim city manager in Charlotte, Mich. and before that served as city manager from March 2018 to May 2019 in Unalaska, Alaska.
He is from Florida and has served as city manager in Largo, associate planner in Pinellas Park and budget analyst for the City of Tallahassee.