By: Sharon Aron Baron
The finalists for Parkland’s city manager position were questioned on Saturday, and soon, the commission will make their pick.
Through a recruiting effort by Slavin Management Consultants out of Norcross Georgia, Six candidates out of the original 51 applicants have made it to this point. Each finalist appeared before the entire commission on Saturday and asked questions during the 50-minute public interview.
First up was Erdal Donmez, former city manager for Coral Springs from 2000-2017. He holds a bachelor of science in economics from Florida State University and his master’s of science from Auburn University.
Commissioner Stacey Kagan asked him why he left the city during a time when the millage rate was about the be raised.
Donmez said it was difficult being a city manager and running eight cylinders at one time —he had an ill father as well and wanted something with less responsibility.
Commissioner Bob Mayersohn told Donmez that working for Parkland would not be less responsibility.
“When I left the city, the city was in the best shape, and sound financially,” he said.
The commission asked him about budget, plans and projects, and how he implemented them.
“I stay on top of finances monthly,” said Donmez. “If there is anything out of place, I will report that immediately to the commission. Routine updates would be quarterly. If anything else, I would update them immediately.”
Commissioner Rich Walker told Donmez that communication is extremely important. He wanted to know how he communicated with the community to get information out.
Everything we did was with the customers in mind said Donmez. They held meetings for residents during the days and nights to try to get them as much information as possible.
He said not to overestimate the knowledge of the community.
“Be consistent and be honest. Do your homework and answer questions and if you’d don’t know the answers, get them. Anything we do in a budget or business initiative, we better deliver quickly.
Kevin Knutson is a strategic planner with Envisio Solutions. One of the cities that he is contracted to work with is Parkland. He has a bachelor’s of arts in English and a master’s degree in creative writing from Florida International University.
Currently living in British Columbia, Canada, his experience includes time as an assistant city manager for the city of Reno NV, from 2011-2012 and director of communications and marketing for the City of Coral Springs from 2005-2008.
Walker asked Knutson how he would manage both the commission and staff and develop good relationships with both.
“I want them [staff] to bring their passion and vision and give them the tools to do that as well as the freedom to do it,” said Knutson.
Vice Mayor Ken Cutler said that he had three candidates that have experience already, and asked Knutson what he brings to the table that is above that.
Knutson said that he has worked with over 150 different cities and governments, including Tamarac, Margate, and Broward County.
“I have the advantage that not only gives me the experience, but I know what is going on.”
Kagan said it was a significant benefit knowing about surrounding cities and asked him If he were to be the city manager, what would be the first thing he would address?
He said he would make sure the city had a good relationship with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Broward County.
“We need to have good relations with the staff level. We need to discuss all the opportunities between them. I will have time set aside every day for interactions with staff,” he said.
Mayor Christine Hunschofsky asked him about his vision for the city.
“It would be the vision the commission adopts,” said Knutson. “I believe we act in the best interest of the people, and we are transparent. I want them to see this on a daily basis.”
Kagen asked him what the city could have done differently after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting.
He said there was no way anyone in the world could be prepared for that.
“It would have been easier if you could follow a process. From the outside, you did remarkably well,” he said. “While some things that happened, the message could have been done differently. The most important thing is to have a coherent story. No matter what happens, we should be better prepared.”
Recently retired as the city manager of Margate, Samuel May worked his way up beginning in 1988 as an engineering inspector, becoming city manager in 2017.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Barry University as well as a master’s of arts in administrative studies.
Kagen asked what he would focus on first — the biggest challenge in the city.
“Safety; Roads that are deteriorating. What we can do with those roads and the drainage,” he said. “Residents are flooding out when it rains.”
He also added talks about whether to stay with the Broward Sheriff’s office or to go to Coral Springs Police.
Walker asked May what one of his biggest accomplishments was.
“Doing a road bond was a big accomplishment,” he said. He brought in the engineering study and presented options to the commission.
“We were able to resurface every road in the city. Fifteen years later, they’re some of the best roads in Broward County.”
Hunschofsky asked what his vision for the city was. May answered that his vision was to keep the city like it is — the same feel and the same character, to not let it go awry.
“Looking at it from the outside, it’s a great city. You have to manage the growth correctly. But right now, it’s a great city.”
Cutler asked May what the key was in making sure Margate complied with laws.
“I’m not an attorney, so the finance director, who is a CPA, are the ones who can let us know where they are with everything. You have to have a second set of eyes on everyone,” he said.
When asked if he had a system in place to make sure they have all their checks and balances in place, May answered no.
Nancy Morando has been the interim city manager for Parkland since January. She is also working as the finance director, her job before the city manager left. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami in finance.
Cutler asked Morando what does she bring, and why she is better qualified.
“I am your city manager currently. I understand this city better than anyone else. I bring my experience, and I’m also a resident of the city for 20 years, and my children attended all the Parkland schools. This is my community; this is my home.”
Morando said she understands all the issues and has been a part of all of them for 13 years.
“I have the foundation that others do not because I’ve done the work. I work long days and weekends, and I will bring my expertise to the city. “
Cutler asked her since she has been interim city manager, what are the things she will do differently.
“Once I am the city manager, I feel I’ll be in complete control. I’ve been partially handcuffed. The most important thing is the Park Master Plan, and if it’s done correctly. “
Mayersohn asked how she communicates to the commission.
“Each one of you has different needs and requirements. As a city manager, I’ll work on refining that. I’m going to work hard to determine everyone receives the same information. I want to be consistent, fair, and transparent.”
Morando told the commission she would try to be both the finance director and city manager. If she is chosen, her goal is to have one assistant city manager.
Brian Raducci has been the finance director for Aventura since 2007. He held the same position in North Lauderdale for six years and is both a New York and Florida certified public accountant with more than 26 years of professional experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Siena College.
As the finance director, he oversees the $60 million operating budget as well as the municipal-run charter schools.
“I’m not going to come in and think I have all the answers,” said Raducci. “I’ll sit down with the department heads. I think you need to build trust with your management team, and you will not get those to come to you without that.”
Hunschofsky said they currently have issues where people are sending phishing emails to change employees’ information for direct deposits and asked him what procedures and policies he has in Aventura to prevent that.
As a finance director, he said he gets phishing scams regularly and has a method in place to prevent it.
“We would contact that employee and have them fill out the forms. There is a form online through an employee portal.”
Cutler asked Randucci if having their own police department is working for Aventura.
He said their police force is not a financial burden; however, in that community, it takes a long time to fill a vacancy as there are so many levels of review.
“The residents love to see the police. The [Aventura] mall pays for 13 officers.”
Kagan asked Raducci to share what he feels Parkland should do differently.
“I see a very well-oiled machine. I see people who are vested and committed” and added that he might want to change the communications.
“This is a very unique city; you don’t want to lose its park-like charm. Other than trying to maintain what you have and building off that. I would probably tweak it, and then I would sit down with your department heads, and [we would] tweak it.”
On Tuesday, October 29, at 7:30 p.m., the commission will be making their decision by ranking each of their top three candidates. They will then narrow down a candidate and an alternate.