Town Manager search moves full speed ahead

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The search for the next Town Manager for Longboat Key has heated up on and off the island.

Off the island, current Town Manager Dave Bullock said he is actively pursuing Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer as his replacement.

The Commission two weeks ago fashioned a strategy wherein Bullock would pursue any candidate that a commissioner felt was appropriate for the job. They also told Bullock to pursue anyone he felt was suitable. Bullock had three individuals in mind when he left that meeting.

“When I started, I had three people in my sights. One took another job and I spoke with one last weekend and he declined,” said Bullock.

Harmer, one of the three, has yet to declare his intentions. But for Bullock, Harmer has some key ingredients that make him a good fit for Longboat Key.

“In the five or six years I have known him, he’s got the right set of values that I believe are a good fit for Longboat. He treats people with respect, he is fair and he is a very straightforward and honest guy,” said Bullock.

One of the positive and essential qualities for managing Longboat Key is both the desire and ability to work at a far more intimate level with both commissioners, staff as well as the issues.

Bullock also views managing Longboat as a rare opportunity for someone with the necessary skill set.

“Longboat is the best manager job in the state. The reason I say that is the community is willing to be engaged and make critical investments to enhance and evolve the island. It is certainly not the same everywhere. One thing I love is that Longboat has a very high expectation of its town. I also like the fact that the motivation by this commission is always to improve Longboat and not for self-interest or to use the position as a stepping stone for some other political aspiration,” said Bullock.

Bullock was hired more than six years ago and at that time, he was second in charge of Sarasota County as the Deputy Administrator. Former Town Attorney Dave Persson was tasked at that time with pursuing Bullock. But it was then Mayor Jim Brown who spoke to Bullock and when Bullock said he was considering it, Brown said, “You don’t understand; what is it going to take to get you to Longboat Key?”

At that time Bullock realized the seriousness of their offer and he says that when he asked his wife her thoughts, it took her a nano-second and she said to do it.


Candidate from within

Also on the radar is current Assistant Town Manager Mike Hein who was hired a year-and-a-half ago by Bullock.

Hein worked as the City Manager of Tucson and wrote the Town Commission last week of both his desire to be the next Town Manager as well as some of his specific qualifications.

In his letter Hein wrote, “To maintain Longboat Key as the premier community it is, the next Town Manager must maintain and enhance the organization’s culture, placing a premium on transparency, accountability and responsiveness.”

Hein pointed out that the next manager will be required to navigate upcoming challenges including utility undergrounding, beach management, the town center vision, as well as maintaining a strong presence and voice in regional discussions.

Hein said that with over 25 years in public service as well as his 19 months working on Longboat Key he has demonstrated contributions and leadership and implementation. He also makes the case that he will provide continuity since he has worked at the town already.


Strategy in motion

With Hein and Harmer as possibilities, Bullock said he hopes to have a firm position of interest or decline from Harmer within two weeks. Hein is also available to be interviewed by the commission. Bullock said his plan is if any of the local candidates are not hired, that by mid-August a larger and more official search will be conducted.

Commissioner George Spoll opined when the matter was discussed last month, that he wished for a wider net to include even national candidates.

Whatever direction unfolds, one certainty is that Bullock’s last day will be Jan. 12, 2018. As of press time, no other candidates are known to have expressed interest or are being considered.

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