Vero Beach Council selects city manager, negotiations to begin

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council has selected James O’Connor as its top choice for city manager and voted to enter into contract negotiations with him.

The decision came quickly after just one ballot.

To avoid the kind of confusion that marred last week’s council meeting when it took three tries to select four finalists from among five semi-finalists, Vice Mayor Pilar Turner asked David Johnson, president of HR Dynamics, to oversee the voting.

O’Connor received two votes on the first ballot, with Kevin Sullivan, Kenneth Griffin and Interim City Manager Monte Falls each receiving one vote.

After being urged by Councilman Craig Fletcher to go with the top vote-getter despite differing preferences, the council approved O’Connor as its top choice by a voice vote of 4-1.

Councilman Brian Heady was the lone dissenter.

Prior to the balloting he made a strong defense of keeping Falls in the city manager chair based on economy and his knowledge of the city and the city manager’s responsibilities.

At the suggestion of Johnson, whose firm conducted the search for a new city manager the council held a second vote to choose a backup candidate in case negotiations with O’ Connor fall through. The No. 2 choice was Kenneth Griffin.

The council also voted to form a steering committee composed of Johnson, Fletcher, Vock, City Attorney Wayne Coment and a representative of the city’s human resources department to negotiate an employment agreement with O’Connor with the goal of having the agreement ready for approval by the council’s next meeting on May 17.

O’Connor currently makes approximately $145,000 a year as city manager of Winchester, Va., where he oversees 400 employees and manages a budget of $176 million.

He has 25 years of experience as a city manager, including 14 years as city manager of Bartow, Fla.

While in Bartow, he was president of Florida Municipal Utilities Association and a board member of Florida Municipal Power Association.

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