City commissioners will conduct video conference interviews next week with their five top city manager candidates, a list narrowed on Tuesday that includes Interim City Manager Shawn Sherrouse.

After the virtual interviews, commissioners plan to hold in-person interviews at City Hall the following week with their three top picks. 

There were a few mild surprises Tuesday in cutting down the list of candidates. 

The Illinois-based GovHR search firm, led by Heidi Voorhees, had provided a list of 16 candidates to commissioners. She ranked the top eight and provided a list of  eight more. Four of her top eight choices were eliminated Monday and two of her next eight picks made the cut of six. Then one of the six withdrew from consideration.

The four survivors from her initial eight are as follows, in alphabetical order:

  • Natasha Hampton, assistant city manager for Rocky Mount, N.C. Hampton is a native Floridian with “extensive utility experience” who rose from “clerk 1” to assistant city manager, Voorhees said.

Hampton had to untangle the bureaucracy in dealing with federal Community Development Block Grants and is very data driven. Hampton also works hard on recruitment and has extensive utility experience, according to Voorhees.

  • Ty Kovach, executive director for Lake County Forest Preserve, Libertyville, Ill. Voorhees called Kovach “the most unique candidate.” She said she knows Kovach and he has a sterling reputation.

Kovach has airport experience and a strong utilities background, she said, and he often had to navigate between pro- and anti-development forces in rural areas.

Kovach was very involved in connecting government entities and “has good leadership and financial skills,” Voorheed said.

  • Ronda Perez, assistant city manager for Lancaster, Calif. Lakeland and Lancaster share “a lot of similarities,” including rapid growth, Voorhees said.

Perez is very involved with the Lancaster airport and has been collaborative with local government entities, she said. When the city cut its parks budget, Voorhees said, she forged a partnership with 25 entities and raised $1 million.

“Her writing style is very self assured,” Mayor Bill Mutz said. Voorhees laughed and agreed. 

  • Shawn Sherrouse, interim city manager for Lakeland. Commissioners didn’t need an extensive briefing from Vorhees about him. 

One of his “pros” is his help in the developing a sports complex while an assistant city manager in Auburndale, Voorhees said. She said Sherrouse believes “leadership is based on your actions.”

City commissioners met via teleconference Tuesday to discuss city manager candidates.

Two military supervisors, both not on the list of eight, were chosen to be interviewed. Voorhees said they didn’t make her top eight because, while strong candidates, they lacked municipal government experience.

One of the two withdrew his application Tuesday afternoon, according to city Communications Director Kevin Cook.

Both were touted by Commissioner Scott Franklin, a candidate for Congress and former Navy pilot who said the duo has done most of what gets done at City Hall. The remaining candidate is:

  • Michael R. Moore, former chief of staff for the U.S. Navy Mid-Atlantic Region. Moore has lived in Jacksonville and is familiar with Tampa and Lakeland, Voorhees said.

He has plenty of airport experience and “he sees “a lot of opportunity for growth” in Lakeland, she said. He has worked with underserved communities and has a “coaching style” of supervision, she said.

GovHR report: View resumes of all finalists

Edward Phillips, chief operating officer/city manager for MacDill Air Force Base, is the candidate who withdrew his application after becoming a semi-finalist.

The virtual interviews with the candidates will take place Oct. 7 and Oct. 9.  

Video of Tuesday’s meeting on city manager candidates:

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