Deliberations were touch-and-go as to whether the Port Orange City Council would be without a city manager for another 6 months to a year, but council members ultimately decided Saturday that Michael H. “Jake” Johansson was the right person for the job and extended an offer to negotiate a contract with the military veteran. “I feel ecstatic,” Johansson, a former commanding officer at a naval facility, said in a phone interview after a special meeting where four finalists were interviewed.
Early in the Saturday discussion, it looked as if the city was headed for yet another round of applications, interviews and processes guided by consulting firm The Mercer Group, led by W.D. Higginbotham, the firm’s vice president. And Councilman Bob Ford, who represents District 1, about one hour into the deliberation process, had his head in his hands, pleading with his colleagues to make a decision.
Citing the law of diminishing returns (which states that at some point, benefits gained become less than the time, energy or money invested), Ford stressed that the stellar cast and quality of candidates the city has been presented with by Higginbotham and his team can only be lessened by time.
By the end of the session, the rest of the council agreed that the citizens of Port Orange shouldn’t have to wait for another year — and possibly longer — for a permanent manager.
“If we’re really going to make a statement about stability,” Councilman Drew Bastian said, “then now would be a good time to start.”
Barrow County almost lost their county manager… almost.
Randy Dowling, who came to work for Barrow County in November 2013, applied for a job with Port Orange, Fla. at the end of May. He was named to the final four that was considered for the job that pays $140,000 to $150,000 a year. Currently Dowling makes about $110,000, according to his resume and job application.
However, Saturday evening the city of Port Orange picked their new city manager and it was not Dowling. Michael H. Johansson, a former city manager (commanding officer) of U.S. Naval Support Activity in Hampton Roads, Va. was picked for the position.
As of press time, Dowling had not responded to a request for comment.
Last month the Port Orange City Council narrowed the list of 89 candidates down to four, with help from Georgia-based consulting firm, The Mercer Group. They almost decided to skip the four candidates that they had picked, including Dowling, and head for another search but at the last minute decided to pick Johansson, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“I don’t really see a single candidate that brings to the table what I’m looking for,” District 4 Councilman Scott Stiltner told the News-Journal last month.
The open position of Port Orange City Manager comes on the heels of controversy where the former city manager, Greg Kisela, along with five of his other main city officials, resigned after a $411,510 water-meter issue and many upset citizens. Before that, former manager Ken Parker retired after 28 years due to mistakes by the accounting department that cost the city about $1.28 million in lost revenue.
According to Dowling’s cover letter, he has experience with working in the Sunshine State. He previously worked with Indian River County and was Assistant to the City Manager in Homestead.
Port Orange is a town on the Atlantic coast of Florida just below Daytona Beach.