Vero Council moves on transition plan from Gabbard

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council on Tuesday selected a search firm to replace retiring City Manager Jim Gabbard and approved a compensation agreement with Interim City Manager Monte Falls.

The council voted 4-1 to hire Colin Baenzinger & Associates out of Wellington, Fla. for a flat fee of $21,500 to conduct a search for candidates to fill the city manager seat, focusing on Florida and on professionals with experience in electric, water and sewer utility matters.

The recruiter who conducted the last search, which netted David Mekarsky in 2003, was employed by The Mercer Group previously, but is now working for Colin Baenzinger.

Human Resources Director Robert Anderson reviewed and ranked the proposals, scoring Colin Benzinger first.

“Your job is human resources so I definitely feel comfortable with your rating system,” said Mayor Kevin Sawnick.

Councilman Brian Heady requested to see Anderson’s ranking sheets, which were obtained and copied for the council during a 5-minute break in the meeting.

After some debate over budget constraints, the council also voted to approve a compensation package of an additional $500 per month for Public Works Director Monte Falls, who has agreed to serve as Interim City Manager.

Heady and then Councilman Tom White advocated for Falls’ requests.

“I think we are lucky to be able to agree with the few little conditions that we have here,” Abell added, saying that he seconded Heady and White’s remarks.

Councilman Ken Daige dissented, citing that the city is asking all of its employees to make sacrifices and do “double duty” and that Falls should assume the extra responsibility without more pay.

The city is saving about $11,000 plus benefits, however, each month that Falls fills in.

Falls will also be able to retain any unused vacation time that he cannot use while filling both posts and will be guaranteed that the council will not fill his Public Works Director job with someone else. The long-time department head has indicated that he does not want the city manager post on a permanent basis.

Councilman Heady suggested that the city also use free avenues such as the Florida League of Cities newsletter and online job listings.

The search will commence immediately, but is expected to take several months to complete.

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