HIGH SPRINGS – After more than a year without a permanent city manager, High Springs city commissioners are gearing up to review yet another round of hopefuls who have applied for the post.  In all, 31 candidates submitted their resumes by the Nov. 30 deadline.

The position attracted applicants from as far away as Monterey, California and as local as High Springs.  Candidates include current and former city and town managers and administrators.  W.D. Higginbotham, Jr., who served as Gainesville’s city manager for about four years in the 1980s, also applied.

At a special meeting last week, commissioners decided to schedule a workshop for Jan. 10, 2012 to determine how they will narrow the list. Paul Sharon, a Range Rider with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), has pared the list down to nine candidates who meet the criteria set by the commission several months ago.

Salaries for several of those candidates recommended by Sharon exceed the salary range set by the commission.  With a budgeted annual salary range of $50,000 - $72,000, commissioners said they were concerned that interviewing candidates expecting more could leave the city in yet another lurch.

Both Commissioner Linda Gestrin and Vice Mayor Bob Barnas said they didn’t necessarily agree with a decision by Sharon to exclude local candidates from his list of the top nine applicants.

Gestrin’s confidence in Sharon to help the city in hiring its next city manager also seemed to waiver.  Gestrin and others on the commission have stated that they would like to see the City move away from the strong city manager form of government it currently has.   “This is the only form of government he believes in.  I’m not so sure this has served us really well.  Now we’re in debt.  Our funds are drained.  The list is long,” she said.

The cities of Alachua and Gainesville and several others in the area use the strong city manager form of government, leaving administrative duties, such as hiring and personnel matters to up to a top administrator while general policy decisions are handled by the commission.  The strong city manager concept aims to prevent commission politics from creeping into administrative decisions.

Uncertainties about how the city is to proceed with the hiring process led commissioners to schedule the workshop.

Mayor Dean Davis wanted to know when extensive background checks would be conducted, the length of the city manager’s probationary period, what kind of severance would be included in the contract and how the accrual of vacation and sick pay would be handled.

On Nov. 24, in a controversial move, commissioners voted 3-2 to hire local resident Jeri Langman at about $4,400 monthly to fill the role of interim city manager.  Langman replaced Jenny Parham who was serving double duty as the interim manager and city clerk.

Parham said she would stay on as the interim until the commission could find a permanent city manager.  As the interim, Parham was being paid about $1,500 monthly in addition to her salary as city clerk.  A 24-year-veteran employee of the city, she remains the clerk today.

Parham had been serving as interim city manager since former city manager Jim Drumm resigned under pressure in September 2010.

The Jan. 10 meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. according to the city’s website.