Commission Will Cast a National Net for New City Manager

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Lakeland city commissioners today decided to launch a national search through an executive recruitment firm to find a replacement for City Manager Tony Delgado, who announced last month he will retire at the end of September.

The search is expected to cost $30,000 to $35,000. Even with Delgado giving four months’ notice, it is unlikely to have a new top executive for city government in place by the time he departs, commissioners were told today.

There was no national search when Delgado was named interim city manager five years ago. However, circumstances were different.

Delgado had been assistant deputy manager or assistant manager for 14 years at that point, and his three-month interim period was seen as a period for him to decide whether he wanted the higher-profile position as much as whether commissioners were comfortable with him in the hot seat.

The other two members of Delgado’s current executive team have had far less time with the city of Lakeland.

 Deputy City Manager Shawn Sherrouse, 48, came to the city in 2016 after serving as assistant city manager of Auburndale, and Assistant City Manager Emily Colón, 33, joined the city 14 months ago after serving as an administrator directing internal services for Pasco County government.

Sherrouse said today he will apply to become the new city manager.

“I will apply and intend to use my education and my more than 25 years of public sector experience serving in the Marine Corps, Polk County Property Appraiser’s Office, the City of Auburndale and the City of Lakeland, to lead the City of Lakeland organization in our service to the Lakeland community,” he said in an email to LkldNow.

Colón said she is “not quite sure yet” whether she will apply.

Commissioners said today that their choice to initiate a national search does not mean they won’t entertain a local candidate.

Commissioners Sara McCarley and Scott Franklin said talking with outside city management experts will allow the commission to get new perspectives. “We’ll learn a lot in the process,” Franklin said.

Delgado appointed Colón to coordinate with the city’s HR department on selecting an executive recruiter. She has expertise in recruitment as well as connections with professional organizations, he said.

Colón has already spoken with a half-dozen firms that specialize in public sector executive recruitment. She found that it typically takes four months to craft and advertise the job posting, accept and review applications, select finalists, interview them in person and make a selection, Delgado said.

After that, an outside candidate might need to give current employers 30 to 60 days’ notice, which makes it unlikely somebody will be in place by the time Delgado retires.

Franklin said it might be awkward to have an interim city manager who was also a candidate during a national search and asked Delgado whether he would consider delaying his retirement if a replacement hasn’t been hired yet.

Delgado, 59, said he’ll need time to think about it since he has made family plans for the period immediately after retirement. But he also said it’s not uncommon for an internal candidate to serve in an interim position, knowing that he or she might not be the one ultimately selected.

With the exception of Doug Thomas, who was hired as city manager following a national search in 2003 and served until 2015, Lakeland’s other city managers in recent decades have been promoted internally.

Thomas was preceded in 2000 by Roger Haar, who had been assistant under Gene Strickland. Strickland succeeded Bob Youkey in 1985 after having been his assistant for 19 years.

Lakeland has used national searches for key department head positions, including the hiring of current Lakeland Electric General Manager Joel Ivy in 2012 and former Police Chief Lisa Womack, also in 2012.

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