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Panama City Commission Narrows Down City Manager Search to Top Two Applicants

Local officials have narrowed down their search for a new city manager to the top two applicants.

Panama City commissioners on Tuesday voted to move forward with scheduling public interviews with Jonathan Hayes, the acting public works director for Panama City; and Darnell Ingram, the general council and chief compliance officer for Baltimore, Maryland.

Hayes and Ingram were selected from a previous pool of the top five applicants that was set in a commission meeting on Sept. 26. One candidate has dropped out of the race since, and the rest were privately interviewed by each commissioner over the past couple of weeks.

“They were all so awesome to talk to,” Commissioner Jenna Haligas said. “They were all high achievers. Somehow we landed on four really, really great people.”

Apart from Hayes and Ingram, the other candidates in the original top five list were Steven Carter, Donna Pilson and David Johnson, who dropped out. At the September meeting, officials said they would rank their top three candidates, with their favorite receiving three points, their second favorite receiving two points, and their third favorite receiving one point.

Those rankings were then to be presented at Tuesday’s meeting.

But not all commissioners made a top three list. Mayor Michael Rohan, Commissioner Josh Street and Commissioner Brian Grainger did, while Commissioner Janice Lucas listed her top two, and Commissioner Jenna Haligas listed only her favorite.

The following are the commissioners’ lists in order from their favorite to third favorite candidate:

  • Rohan − Ingram, Carter, Pilson.
  • Street − Hayes, Ingram, Carter.
  • Grainger − Hayes, Carter, Pilson
  • Lucas − Pilson, Ingram
  • Haligas − Hayes

This resulted in Hayes claiming the top spot with nine points, Ingram securing the No. 2 spot with seven points, and Carter and Pilson tying for the No. 3 spot with five points each.

Though a motion was eventually passed to move forward with only the top two candidates, the decision did not sit well with Rohan, who was the lone member of the commission to vote against the motion. Rohan said they should instead publicly interview all four candidates since Johnson dropped out, and the rankings might have been different if all commissioners completed a top three list.

“This is a travesty,” Rohan said. “We have said we wanted the top three, and you all are already cutting it down to two. It’s pretty obvious who you want. … I feel strongly that we should have four people, not just two.

Haligas said that while she believes all are quality applicants, it was obvious to her that Hayes is best suited for the position. She noted that members of the public works department also sent commissioners a letter complimenting Hayes’ leadership skills and the culture he has created in his department.

“Staff is day in and day out … and the fact that they all went out of their way to write this letter about how the culture has changed (and) how effective he is − I’m not sure I could get a better review,” Haligas said. “That is a strong recommendation coming from those who work inside city hall.”

Source : Newsherald