Lake City fires search firm, still seeks manager

The Lake City Council switched plans at its Monday evening meeting in its search for a new city manager that has lasted 11 months. 

After two identical motions, the council voted to terminate its contract with S. Renée Narloch & Associates, the city’s current executive recruiting firm. 

Council Member Todd Sampson led the effort after hearing the latest news from Renée Narloch, CEO of S. Renée Narloch & Associates. Narloch presented three new applicants for the city manager position, but Sampson called the options “underwhelming.” 

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Sampson said he’d been opposed to the firm from the start and has motioned in previous meetings to terminate the contract. 

“I tried to give Ms. Narloch the benefit of the doubt, and again she hasn’t really produced any candidates worth voting for at all or looking at,” Council Member Jake Hill Jr. said. 

On Monday night, Hill seconded Sampson’s motion to terminate, but both Mayor Stephen Witt and Council Member Eugene Jefferson voted in opposition. The council has lacked a fifth member since City Council Member Chris Greene resigned in September 2021. 

“I’m not in favor of changing it,” Witt said. “I think it’s not [Narloch’s] fault. I think we’re just not getting the applications in, and that’s just universal all over the country.”

Witt also said the city would not be able to handle the manager search itself, forcing the city to hire another firm, but Sampson said another firm could have larger and different pools of applicants. 

“We can not fire her tonight and let her continue this charade until the next meeting, and then we can do this again,” Sampson said. “Because this is absolutely unacceptable that we’ve allowed this as a group to go on for a year.”

Sampson said the council needed to sit and figure out its course of action at the meeting. He made a motion to reconsider his previous motion to fire Narloch & Associates. Hill seconded, but the move ended in another 2-2 vote. 

Sampson again moved to reconsider. After discussion, Sampson amended the motion to fire S. Renée Narloch & Associates and to hire Colin Baenziger & Associates, who came in second during the bidding process last year, under emergency circumstances.

This motion passed unanimously. 

Lake City has lacked a permanent city manager since June 2021 when the city council fired former City Manager Joe Helfenberger. Ami Fields, who served as human resources director, was appointed to the position as an interim, but Fields then submitted her resignation in September. 

The city council placed Paul Dyal, utilities executive director, into the interim city manager position in January.

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