In a special call meeting to decide on an interim city manager at 3 p.m. today, the Marathon City Council agreed to offer current Planning Director George Garrett the permanent position. The vote was 3-2, with Mayor Steve Cook and Councilman Dan Zieg dissenting.
Garrett was offered the position without the nationwide search for a leader that Marathon has conducted in the past.
Councilman Luis Gonzalez made the motion, and he was seconded by Councilman Mark Senmartin. Both men said they favored Garrett for the position because he’s a local with local ties and institutional knowledge.
“He can offer continuity, expertise, local knowledge of Marathon and the county, he understands the complex relationships we have with the county, state and federal governments and he’s someone we can all trust,” Gonzalez said.
Zieg and Cook said while they appreciated Garrett’s commitment and service to the community, they questioned how the other councilmen arrived at this decision.
“The rush to put Garrett as city manager doesn’t pass the sniff test. This smacks of a backroom deal where people only had their own self interests in mind,” said Zieg. “I thought we had moved forward out of the mud and into the sunshine. If he is half the man you say he is, (Garrett) would recognize this maneuver is simply that. He would request the job be posted and put his resume into the mix with all the others and let the best man win.”
Cook echoed the thought.
“If you go forward on this path,” said Cook, referring to hiring Garrett in a permanent capacity, “without a search, members of this council should be ashamed.”
Garrett was invited to speak before the vote.
“I appreciate this honor. I simply appreciate the council and its consideration. It’s an honor, honestly,” Garrett said.
Before the council could vote, Councilman John Bartus slowed the roll.
“I suggest we amend the motion to say that we will enter into negotiations with our intent to hire Garrett and have our city attorney work on the contract. We can decide at a future council meeting, perhaps the next one,” Bartus said.
Twice, Garrett has served as deputy manager for the City of Marathon — once under former City Manager Mike Puto and once under current, but retiring, City Manager Chuck Lindsey. In addition to his full time position as Marathon’s City Manager, Garrett is very involved in the community at large. He serves on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Board, is chairman of Crane Point Museum and past president of the Rotary Club of Marathon.
“George, I like you and love you. But you have way too much on your plate to also deal with staff on a daily basis, intergovernmental affairs. You were previously removed as deputy city manager for most of these reasons — because you are too busy,” Cook said.
Bartus expressed a different concern.
“If at some point in the future, if George ends up being named manager and decides after a little while to go back to being just the planning director, I don’t want to see that avenue closed on him,” Barttus said.
Luis Gonzalez had to repeat his motion four times during the special call meeting as the audio kept cutting out at the crucial moment.
It’s unknown how many dial in callers were listening to the meeting, but the YouTube channel where it was also broadcast only reached 16 viewers. Lindsey was either not present, or did not speak during the special call meeting.
Current City Manager Chuck Lindsey announced his decision to resign in early October with two possible quit dates: Nov. 12 or, if needed and agreed by the majority of council, a month longer to Dec. 10. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Marathon City Council is on Tuesday, Nov. 10.