GNV sets timeline for hiring charter officers

Gainesville City Commission
File photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission voted on a recruitment plan for permanent charter officers, a bus fare program, and the dissolution of an advisory board at a meeting Thursday. It was the commission’s first meeting since a break for municipal elections on Aug. 23, when four of seven seats were on the ballot. 

The action on permanent charter officers came three months after the commission directed the human resources department to begin drafting job descriptions and identify executive search firms to use for four open positions. However, commissioners said they would leave the actual hiring to the new board coming in January.  

So far, only one new commissioner has been confirmed—Bryan Eastman for the District 4 seat. The final two candidates for District 2, District 3 and mayor will face runoff elections on Nov. 8. 

The City of Gainesville has four interim charter officers: the city manager, attorney, general manager of Gainesville Regional Utilities and the director of equity and inclusion.  

These officers have served from seven months to almost 12 months. The placements came after a series of resignations last year, along with the firing of Ed Bielarski as general manager in January.  

At Thursday’s meeting, city staff presented the commission with a proposed timeline. The process would start just after the November elections with the director for equity and inclusion. The process for selecting each charter officer will last 12-16 weeks.  

The current commission hopes to begin the initial steps with input from the elected candidates, like agreeing on a position description, developing a candidate profile and the recruitment firms search for charter officer candidates.  

These steps alone will take between six and 10 weeks. Once sworn in, the new commissioners will already have a list of potential candidates for the director of equity and inclusion position and can begin interviews.  

The next 12–16-week search will begin halfway through the timeline for the first charter officers, allowing a staggered approach. All four charter officers would be appointed by mid-June according to staff’s timeline, around 30 weeks from the start of the process. 

Staff added that it could possibly tighten the timeline by a week or two throughout by starting on the next charter officer earlier to get prep work out of the way.  

Candidate-elect Eastman spoke in public comment. He said the new commissioners will need to rely on the current commission’s experience in the matter. 

“We’re leaning on you all a lot, but this is the most important thing we will be deciding,” Eastman said at the meeting.  

The commissioner voted unanimously, with Commissioner David Arreola absent, to bring the issue back on Nov. 17 and directed the human resources department to continue working on job descriptions and selecting search firms.   

The city keeps four firms on retainer: Bakertilly, CPS HR Consulting, GovHR USA and MGT Consulting Group.  

Commissioner Harvey Ward noted that he would like to avoid the process altogether. 

“I will say, though, I don’t want us to do this at all,” Ward said at the meeting. “I want us to hire who we have.” 

The commission also approved the continuation of a program that allows those under 18 years old and over 65 years old to ride RTS buses for free.  

The program hit its one-year mark and received a state grant to help the program continue. Gainesville and Alachua County will split the remaining costs of the program. Last year, the program cost $230,000.  

The commission also passed a first reading to dissolve the Student Community Relations Advisory Board. At a General Policy Committee meeting in October 2021, the commissioners directed the city attorney to draft language for the repeal of the advisory board.  

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