The Long Search

With a list of three finalists for the job, Pensacola City Council members met this morning to discuss the ongoing search for a council executive. When President Sam Hall threw a fourth name on the table, the already long and winding process experienced another hiccup on the road towards the eventual hire.

“It’s been two years,” protested Councilwoman Sherri Myers, “and this would just be changing the process again.”

After turning to an employment agency for candidates, Hall and Myers had interviewed the top three contenders. Today’s meeting resulted after Myers requested that the council move the process along.

“And now we’re bringing up someone named David Bailey and I have a feeling there’s a little bit of backdoor politicking going on here,” Myers said.

Hall said that he had recently spoken with Bailey—currently the city manager in Seaside and formerly Pensacola’s CRA head—and thought he’d be a good fit for the position.

“There is no hidden agenda here,” the president said. “I just don’t want to miss the opportunity to put the very best candidate in.”

Myers said that she too had been approached by people interested in applying for the council executive position. Though she considered them to be “highly, highly qualified” for the post, she turned them away because the selection process had already begun.

“The process is closed,” she said. “It’s too late.”

Members of the public also took issue with adding Bailey to the mix. They complained that the process had gone on too long and singled Hall out as delaying it on prior occasions.

“I don’t remember clogging it up three times, just twice,” he told them. “And I apologize for that.”

Councilwoman Megan Pratt, who attended the Hall-Myers meeting as a member of the public, told her fellow council members that she had heard of the Bailey possibility “through the grapevine” and considered him to be a “straight shooter.” She said she could support a six month trial stint.

Another council member in the gallery, Brian Spencer, said Bailey—who he previously had a working relationship with—had a “level of experience that is hard to replicate,” as well as “institutional knowledge,” but then argued for the sake of the process.

Charles Bare, who will soon take Hall’s council seat, also suggested that the council stick with the current process due to the “terrible message” altering from that course would send to citizens. He said if council didn’t accept any of the three finalists, it could then reopen the pool for anyone—including Bailey—who wished to apply.

The three finalists for the council executive position were Dr. Lila Sams Cox (who works with the SRIA), David J. Murzin (a former state legislator) and Dana L.S. Williams (former Clerk of Court in Destin). Hall had whittled that list out of a five-candidate pool provided by the Landrum employment agency.

Myers preferred Murzin, while Hall’s top choice was Cox. After Bare explained that Murzin was in his college fraternity and that he was “very capable” but “his personality is one that can rub some people the wrong way” and that “he’s someone who likes to be the center of attention,” Myers switched her top choice to Williams.

The finalists—as well as the conversations had during today’s meeting—will be presented to council soon during a special meeting. The board can either choose from the list, or reject it and begin the process again.