Decisive meeting set for July 10

 HIGH SPRINGS – Following a discussion on June 28 about potential Charter amendments, with criticism leveled at the City’s current city manager form of government, the High Springs Commission decided to move forward with a special meeting to consider terminating current city manager Jeri Langman.

Just two weeks earlier during a June 14 meeting, Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas asked if commissioners were unhappy with the city manager, and no one spoke up. The agenda item, which concerned the city manager as well as the city clerk and city attorney, was dismissed.

Yet at the June 28 meeting, the issue was raised again.

“Obviously, we put a city manager in place as an interim city manager and then as a permanent city manager. Did we make a mistake? Yes or no, it will be debated forever and ever. Barnas said.  “But, the question now becomes, as another commissioner put it, Mr. Mayor, is it working for us?

“Do we start a process now and look for a city manager or do we wait until after the election? It’s my contention that we start a process now.”

The commission scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, July 10, to discuss the hiring process for a new city manager, and Barnas directed City Attorney Raymond Ivey to draft a resolution terminating current city manager Langman.

If the resolution does not pass, Barnas said “everything can go back to normal.”  However, he said his fellow commissioners should consider that the City is looking at Charter amendments because of the actions the city manager has taken.

Earlier in the June 28 meeting, several commissioners suggested rewriting Section 3.04 of the City Charter, which outlines city manager duties. Mayor Dean Davis and Commissioner Linda Gestrin pushed for a stronger commission, with the power to act as a liaison between departments and City officials.

During the June 14 meeting, a similar discussion took place, with Weller and Jamison stating that the city manager enforces policies based on the decisions made by the commission. The commission authorizes the budget, decides whether to raise fees and decides where the money goes, Jamison said.

“If we’re going to blame someone, we need to look in the mirror,” he said at the time.

If the commission moves forward with terminating Langman and searching for a new city manager, the commission will be looking for a candidate with a strong financial background, as well as experience in city administration work. Commissioner Sue Weller said she would not be in favor of hiring a new city manager unless the person came from outside of High Springs.

“It seems like you’re putting the cart ahead of the horse,” Commissioner Scott Jamison said. “I’ve never been in a place where you actually kept [an employee] and went out, hired somebody, did the whole bid and then came back and say, ‘Okay, see you later.’”

Gestrin said that when the commission hired Langman as the city manager, they placed a deadline of November. She also said that the City cannot wait until the last minute to begin searching for a replacement.  She added that Langman would be welcome to reapply for the job.

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