A special meeting of Islamorada Village Council will examine 12 candidates in the running for the next village manager position. 

Set for Wednesday, May 19 at 5:30 p.m., the dais will hear from the search firm the village hired, Colin Baenziger, regarding the selection process and the next steps. Council will mull and select finalists for interview next month. Candidate salaries will also be discussed. 

Former village manager Seth Lawless’ resignation for health reasons last summer led the village council to hire Baenziger. Maria Bassett, village finance director, has served as acting village manager since Lawless’ departure.  

Recruitment for candidates, which started March 12, yielded more than 80 applicants by the April 9 deadline. 

Baenziger, in a memo to council members, said the semifinalists are “very strong” and that any one would do an “excellent job for Islamorada.” David Ritz, a 30-year Keys resident and former manager at Ocean Reef for 27 years, is among the pool of candidates. Among the candidates with manager experience in Florida: current village manager of Key Biscayne, Andrea Agha; current Port St. Lucie Mayor Greg Oravec; current Putnam County Administrator Terry Suggs;  and former Surfside Manager Guillermo Olmedillo. 

Two candidates in the running are from Georgetown, Delaware, while three candidates run municipalities in Oregon, Kansas and Colorado. Two candidates from the southern states of Georgia and South Carolina have experience running cities. 

Village council can select finalists various ways, but Baezinger is recommending each member pick five candidates to interview. From there, preferences would be read aloud and council members would discuss to see if they wish to interview those candidates. 

“Ideally, we recommend the council interview five candidates, and ideally select an alternate in case someone drops out,” Baenziger said in a memo to council members. “At this point, all you are looking at is paper and you will not know whom you will want to be your next village manager until you actually meet that person. We feel the more candidates you meet physically (within reason), the more likely you are to see the right person.”

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Baenziger added that a principal advantage to the approach is the council doesn’t need to spend a lot of time talking about the candidates that most members prefer. It also doesn’t need to discuss candidates they have little interest in. 

Council members are also suggested to ask finalists their salary requirements in the interview. Candidates’ current salaries range from $85,000 to $217,000. Ritz’s salary with Ocean Reef is confidential, a memo from Baenziger stated.

From 12 candidates, council members will dwindle the list to five finalists for interviews on June 2. 

The May 19 meeting is tentatively scheduled as a “hybrid” meeting. At a special call village council meeting to be held on Thursday, May 13, the council will determine when the council chambers will begin to open to the public for in-person attendance at village council meetings.

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