Meet the four finalists for Clearwater city manager
CLEARWATER – The search for a new city manager officially started in March, but it took on new meaning this month.
On August 14, 20-year-old city manager Bill Horne died of a suspected heart attack, three weeks before his planned retirement. City council is now preparing to welcome four finalists for in-person interviews, the same week that should have been Horne’s last in office.
The public is invited to a meet and greet with the candidates Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road. The board will publicly interview each candidate Thursday starting at 8:30 am at the Main Library, 100 N. Osceola Ave., and discuss whether to vote on a hire at 1:00 pm.
The finalists are Milton Dohoney, former deputy city manager of Phoenix, Arizona; Charles Duggan, city manager of Redlands, California; Jon Jennings, city manager of Portland, Maine; and Keith Moffett, County Manager for Macon-Bibb County, Georgia.
The board invited Duggan to interview after runner-up Jerome Fletcher, a Maryland administrator, dropped out on Aug. 11 to accept the post of city manager at North Port.
In Clearwater’s form of government, the elected mayor and council hire the city manager to manage day-to-day operations and implement council policies. The salary range for the position is $ 210,000 to $ 270,000.
The Tampa Bay Times spoke with the finalists before their interviews.
Dohoney had worked in local government in his home state of Kentucky for 20 years when he was recruited in 2006 to be Cincinnati city manager.
At the time, the downtown area along the Ohio River “only had 18 acres of empty land,” he said. But during his eight years in office, he helped lay the groundwork for what is now a regional attraction of restaurants, residential and office projects called “The Banks” between two already existing major league sports stadiums.
Dohoney, 65, helped secure state and federal funding for a streetcar project and managed the $ 2.5 billion budget and 6,000 employees.
In 2014, he became deputy general manager of Phoenix, Arizona, the fifth largest city in the United States. With public security as direct reports, he dealt with issues as broad as the border and preparation for the Super Bowl. When the pandemic struck, he took the lead in responding to the city’s 1.7 million residents.
At the same time, his team responded to 100 consecutive days of social justice protests. Dohoney said he resigned in February to recharge his batteries with the intention of returning to local government somewhere in the No.1 position.
He hopes to be a part of efforts to revitalize downtown Clearwater, prepare the city for sea level rise, and work with residents to strengthen neighborhoods.
âThere are a lot of projects going on in the city,â Dohoney said. âI also believe that the city manager will have to find a way to help the organization heal. Dealing with the loss of Bill Horne and the impact he had is going to be something that is going to take some time.
The only job that would require Duggan to step down from his role as city manager for Redlands, Calif., Is Clearwater.
âIt’s not that I want to leave Redlands, but I want to come to Clearwater, which for me is a big honor,â said Duggan, who has family in Largo.
Duggan, 54, grew up in Dunedin and, after graduating from Auburn University, spent 26 years in Auburn local government, including 11 as city manager.
He studied applied physics at Auburn University, and while applying for his MBA, Duggan got a job with the city’s parks and recreation department.
For the next 26 years, he was Director of Parks and Recreation, Director of Information Technology and City Manager.
He said he oversaw Auburn’s transition from “a big city to a small town” and helped balance growing pains with strategic planning. He created a multi-service design review team that reviewed plans with developers face-to-face to avoid delays and communication issues.
He took office following the controversial resignation of his predecessor and Duggan said he had helped restore confidence. He said he spoke to citizen groups about ethical government and set clear goals for his staff, thereby restoring stability and leadership.
He moved to California in 2017 to serve as Director of Administrative Services for the Marin Municipal Water District and assumed leadership of the City of Redlands in January 2020.
Duggan said that by responding to the pandemic, he was able to adjust departmental budgets to make up for lost income. He also “reassured the city that it can trust its government” by advocating for the successful passage of a sales tax increase of 1 cent.
âI listen more than I speak, my mind can be changed and all I care about is the best idea in the room,â Duggan said.
Portland, Maine City Manager Jennings said his leadership philosophy came from his mentor, NBA coaching legend Red Auerbach.
From how to choose team members to how to treat people, Jennings, 58, draws on his decade as a Boston Celtics recruiter and coach.
His interest in government prompted him to apply for a White House scholarship in 1997 with the Clinton administration. He worked in the Office of Cabinet Affairs under Thurgood Marshall Jr. and as Acting Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs.
After an unsuccessful 2004 run for Congress as a Democrat in a Red District in Indiana, he raised $ 1.5 million to bring the Maine Red Claws, an NBA development team, to Portland.
He moved on to local government, becoming Deputy City Manager of South Portland, Maine, in 2013 and City Manager of Portland in 2015.
âThe reason I love municipal government is because I can see the tangible benefits of the impact we have every day,â Jennings said.
Jennings said he had helped center an unstable government by speeding up stormwater and sewer upgrades and expanding the training of department heads. He created a sustainability program and helped build a 4 acre solar farm.
Last year, progressive activists called on him to step down, saying he supported a “law enforcement approach to poverty, homelessness and struggles for mental and behavioral health,” according to the Portland Press Herald. The mayor and city council have championed Jennings’ commitment to racial and economic justice, the newspaper reported.
Jennings said he had been targeted by activists unhappy with the form of government. A charter review board is considering giving more power to an elected mayor, a referendum that could go to voters in the future.
The Press herald reported Jennings received a leadership award from the Maine Town and City Managers Association for the city’s response to the arrival of 450 asylum seekers in 2019. The city opened a shelter and worked with agencies in the region to find accommodation for families.
âI’m a person who likes to get things done,â Jennings said. âIn Clearwater, I find a city that is really on the cusp of realizing a lot more of its potential and that’s exciting for me.
Keith Moffett grew up in Macon, Georgia, and has devoted most of his career to local government in his hometown.
He spent nine years in the US Navy as a navigation electronics technician working on guidance systems for nuclear missiles. Moffett, 50, then began his engineering studies but “fell in love with local government” after an internship at a chamber of commerce.
Moffett joined the Macon government in 2007 as director of internal affairs and was assistant to the CEO from 2012 to 2014.
The governments of Macon City and Bibb County consolidated in 2014, and Moffett was appointed Director of the 911 Communication Center. In the first year, he increased call and dispatch efficiency and implemented an $ 8 million program to modernize communications.
He worked as an administrator for Butts County, Georgia from 2015 to 2018 before becoming the Director of Macon-Bibb County in 2018.
In addition to managing day-to-day operations, Moffett said he has prioritized redeveloping run-down properties into affordable housing through partnerships with developers. He said he was excited about the efforts to revitalize downtown Clearwater due to the work he has done to revive downtown Macon in partnership with a non-profit organization aimed at attracting businesses and provide grants to business owners.
âI’m looking for an opportunity to use my education and skills while continuing to grow and learn,â said Moffett, who earned a doctorate in educational leadership.