Melbourne Beach commissioners last week interviewed three of four remaining candidates who made the final list for town manager to replace Tim Day, who left in August.
Of the six finalists tapped for interviews, one accepted a position elsewhere and one withdrew his name from consideration. Left in the running are Ed Cannon, Robert Daniels, Vine Akhimie and Richard Giroux, who at press time was scheduled for an interview today.
Cannon recently stepped down as manager in Wildwood, Fla. Daniels has spent much of a long career in law enforcement, most recently as police chief of North Bay Village, Fla. Akhimie has experience in supervisory positions, including two years as director of utilities in Daytona Beach. Giroux, city manager of Sebring, Ohio, since 2013, also served in a similar capacity in Malvern Village.
Of the three who met with commissioners, two had some potentially troubling question marks on their resumes – question marks the commissioners chose not to pursue. Cannon owed back taxes of almost $1,000 to Knox County, Ky., at a time when he served as city manager in Corbin, Ky., from 1998 to 2012. He resigned but the decision was unrelated to the taxes.
Daniels was fired from his job in North Bay Village. “Mr. Daniels and I did not see eye to eye on how to run the police department,” said Frank Rollason, village manager. “He is a capable and talented administrator but our managerial styles clashed and I was forced to make a change. The firing came as his choice and I told him that a firing would not be looked kindly upon by future potential employers.”
Giroux lost a job as a director in Hillsboro, Ohio, after a DUI in November 2012. He subsequently lost his position as manager in Malvern Village for failure to attend several meetings.
“He did nothing wrong, but missed four council meetings in a row. He couldn’t handle both jobs. But he’s knowledgeable about government,” said Mayor Robert DeLong.
While commissioners dismissed the black marks as unimportant factors for the first interviews, the lack of success in retaining town managers never strayed far from the conversation.
“We have a reputation of chasing managers off. But with three out of the last four, the family situation was untenable,” Mayor Jim Simmons said.
Commissioner Steve Walters was blunter in his assessment. “We’ve had two town managers lie to us to get salary increase; lies or half truths,” he said. “And the last manager applied for positions two months after he got here. It was like a slap in the face.”
A proponent of a 15 percent to 25 percent reserve fund for contingencies, Cannon says he is well-versed in financials. He described himself as a hands-on administrator not inclined to sit behind the desk. Like Akhimie, he also has an engineering background.
Asked his two most important traits, Cannon mentioned ethics and transparency. “I’m a stickler for rules.”
Daniels has a master’s in Public Administration and served as an interim manager for nine months. As a Boca Raton captain, he took on more administrative functions. “I am fascinated by the finances. I put together a budget proposal for the police department.”
Walters said having a police officer in the manager’s seat could lead to face to face confrontations during a disagreement. Not to worry, Daniels said.
“Sometimes I talk loud but that’s the way I am. Conflict resolution dictates lowering your voice as administrator,” Daniels said.
Akhimie said he’d have no issue going from a larger city like Daytona Beach to a small town like Melbourne Beach. “I started my career at a drafting table. I supervised staff as small as 16. It’s a matter of adjusting to that. You name it, I’ve dealt with it.”
Asked about his management style, Akhimie emphasized participation, allowing employees room to do their work. “Once they buy in, they’ll be very successful. But put it in writing.”
Akhimie was the one candidate so far who asked each commissioner a question about their approach to governing with the town manager. Commissioner Wyatt Hoover likes to work collaboratively. Simmons prefers face-to-face discussions. Walters communicates through email or other writing.
One of the sticking points was insuring the manager live close by. “We want it to be easy to come here and harder to leave,” Simmons said.
“We don’t want you to drive three or four hours.”
Cannon was unsure whether he could find an affordable place in Melbourne Beach. “But I’ll find a place within a 15-mile radius,” he said. “I’ll be here.”
Same with Akhimie.
No equivocation on residence for Daniels. He hoped to move to the area regardless as his wife has family in Satellite Beach.
A hiring decision could come as early as next week, or the town could decide to keep looking.