Vero Beach Council to hire search firm to hunt for new city manager

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council decided today that they would hire an outside search firm to find a replacement for out-going City Manager Jim Gabbard.

The council is also expected to take the next couple weeks to craft a list of qualities and traits they are looking for in the new manager.

City Councilman Brian Heady was the lone vote against hiring an outside firm to conduct the search, voicing concern that what the current council wants in a new city manager could be different from a potential all new council come November.

“I’m not sure now is the appropriate time to make lasting decisions,” Heady said, later adding, “We need to put the brakes on.”

He also asked the council to consider conducting the search in-house first, using the city’s Human Resources Department to hunt for a new manager. That search could have included looking at current city employees as well as those outside Vero Beach City Hall.

On that point, Mayor Kevin Sawnick agreed – that the city should do an in-house search first before going to the expense of hiring an outside firm.

Human Resources Director Robert Anderson told the council that he estimates the hiring of a firm to cost the city about $20,000. He said one firm that he looked at is located in Florida and another is based in Atlanta but has a Florida office.

As to the timing of hiring a new manager, Sawnick said that the decision on a new manager could come after the elections in November, allowing the potentially new council the opportunity to choose Gabbard’s replacement.

Vice Mayor Sabe Abell reminded the council that when the city hired David Mekarsky in 2003, it took eight months to get him seated at the dais. He explained that it took two months of searching and another six months in selection before Mekarsky was hired.

Given the possibility that no new city manager will be in place the day after Gabbard retires, Oct. 15, Mayor Sawnick said that it would possible to appoint a department head as the interim city manager until a permanent manager can be hired.

City Councilman Ken Daige led the charge for hiring an outside firm to conduct the search, which would be better equipped to “shake out” applications.

“We have to think of the future of our city,” Daige said, explaining that there are a lot of issues the city is dealing with and several enterprise funds that the city manager handles.

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