Firms vie to find new Lakewood Ranch manager

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Two executive search firms made proposals to Inter-District Authority supervisors Monday to find a replacement for departing community manager Bob Fernandez.

The meeting was continued until 9 a.m. Thursday, when a third and final firm is expected to make a proposal.

Fernandez has served as community manager for Lakewood Ranch for about five years. He was hired at an annual salary of $144,000.

Slavin Management Consultants and the Mercer Group offered proposals similar in approach and cost to the Inter-District Authority, which is responsible for Lakewood Ranch Town Hall operations.

Slavin and Mercer’s proposal would each cost the authority in the vicinity of $22,000.

Bob Slavin touted his company’s many years of experience, and said it had helped place Ernie Padgett, former Manatee County manager, and Jim Ley, Sarasota County administrator, in their jobs.

“We’re with you from soup to nuts,” Slavin told supervisors of the search process. “You’re the ones guiding the process, not us. The bottom line is you’re in control.”

It usually takes 90 days from the time the candidate profile is developed until someone is hired, Slavin said.

Fernandez’s last day as Lakewood Ranch community manager is Feb. 18.

Phil Robertson, a senior vice president for the Mercer Group, said the structure for finding an executive is tried and true, following in large part the development of a candidate profile that spells out exactly what supervisors are looking for in the next community manager.

A key to the search is finding a good fit for the community, and also letting candidates know that Lakewood Ranch residents are now debating whether they should incorporate as a city, said Tom Green, chair of the Inter-District Authority.

If that happens, the skill sets needed by a community manager might be different than those required of a city manager.

Because of the uncertainty, “all you can do is lay the facts on the table,” Green said.

Supervisors have to hire for the job as it exists today, rather than what might be, said Inter-District Authority member Dave Emison.

Colin Baenziger & Associates is scheduled to make the final presentation to supervisors Thursday.

Several supervisors said they hoped to select one of the search firms after hearing the final presentation.

In addition to having 10 years or more of governmental experience, supervisors say they are also looking for someone with diplomatic, managerial, and strong communications skills as well as a sense of humor.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.