The Pensacola City Council is again discussing bringing someone on as its staff person. The board met with a prospect last year, but the candidate turned down the position after meeting individually with board members.
When the item came before the council—a scheduled discussion item for the Feb. 6 Committee of the Whole meeting—President Sam Hall asked Councilman Brian Spencer, who sits on a committee dealing with hiring a staff person, how the search was going.
“Actually, President Hall, I recall that subject was brought up and—I believe it was your first meeting, you asked us to hold off,” Spencer said.
The councilman mentioned that he did have some applications. This revelation seemed to surprise Councilwoman Megan Pratt.
“Do we have applicants?” she asked.
“Yes we do,” said Councilman Ronald Townsend. “I have a stack of about 20 applications.”
The city clerk mentioned that she had emailed some prospective candidates’ resumes to the council members.
“But I didn’t hear from anyone,” she said.
This led to a reexamination of what exactly the council was looking for in a staff person. And the fact that the last candidate may have gotten cold feet because he felt the position was ill-defined.
“Whoever takes this job is in a very awkward position in serving two masters,” said Pratt, before suggesting that perhaps the job be contracted out.
Spencer said he looked forward to the committee members reconvening and continuing the search for staff. He later requested that City Administrator Bill Reynolds sit in on the meetings.
“I personally have a different perspective than I did eight months ago,” he said. “I intend to go into the process with a more open mind.”
President Hall apologized to council for neglecting the issue.
“I just want to issue a mea culpa on this one—I had the best intentions,” he said. “After a month, quite frankly, I just let it slip.”
Hall said that the privatized model—contracting the job out—might be a “very doable and somewhat attractive” option. The president said he had also discussed the position with Reynolds; he and the city administrator talked about finding someone already working for the city to serve as the council’s staff.
Councilwoman Sheri Myers then said she had not received the email with the resumes.
She asked if anyone else had received it. Hall said he hadn’t received the email, nor had he seen resumes upon requesting them.
“Maybe that’s why you didn’t get any comments,” Myers told the clerk.
Councilman P.C. Wu cautioned the council to consider the that the mayor could potentially fire the new staff person. That had come up last time, he reminded them.
“If you say the mayor has the ability to hire all staff, how do you get around that,” he asked. “I’m not trying to throw oil in the ointment, I just want to make sure everything we do is legal.”
President Hall also raised the specter of hiring a staff person and then finding that the mayor wouldn’t be hospitable— “so, we could have a council executive without a place to come into work.”
“That’s part of the advantage of hiring out,” Pratt said.
Reynolds said that the council’s speculation seemed a bit wild to him.
“It’s my sincere wish that council would have it’s staff and once that staff is in place we can work through the issue,” he said. “I cannot imagine some of the scenarios being drawn up here.”
Wu continued to insist the position had to be better defined. He said he didn’t want to find himself in the same spot he was in last time when it came time for the individual interviews.
“They said, ‘If I take this job, do you fire me or is the mayor going to fire me?’” Wu recalled. “And I did not know the answer.”