City Commission to meet with 3 candidates for post next week

In the second called meeting of the Palatka City Commission this week, commissioners discussed what lies ahead in the coming week for the city manager search, along with strategies for the upcoming 2020 census.

Human Resources Generalist Debra Robinson said during Thursday’s meeting she has been in communication with the Mercer Group, a Daytona Beach Shores-based executive search firm. The commission voted Monday to contract the firm, at a cost of $16,750, to lead its city manager search.

“They will be available next week onsite on Tuesday, which is the tentative date,” Robinson said. “They can answer any questions and there is a format that they did send out. … just the structure of some questions that you may have and some things that they can answer for you.”

The commission also voted Monday to approve three candidates for interim city manager. The three candidates — Elmon Garner, John J. Drago and Brian Bergen — are slated to meet with the city the same day as the search firm, Robinson said.  

“Tentatively we are looking at Tuesday to meet with all three (candidates) that were suggested on Monday to have the conversation with,” she said.

The city has been without a permanent city manager since the commission fired former City Manager Zeriah Folston on July 23. City Clerk Betsy Driggers has served as interim city manager since Folston’s firing. 

Still in the interim city manager role 11 months after Folston’s firing, Driggers used Thursday’s meeting to encourage the commission to be proactive in preparing for the 2020 census. The census takes place April 1 2020, but preparation leading up to it is key, Driggers said. 

“These are statistics and figures that are going to be used for the next 10 years to decide where to place businesses, where commercial needs to go, where schools need to go,” she said. 

Driggers has seen the city experience ups and downs while reporting censuses. The city and county performed poorly in reporting the 2000 census, she said, but improved greatly in the 2010 census because of a change in preparation. 

Driggers said it is vital for communities to get accurate counts of their population because census data affects several different aspects of the city. One aspect is shared revenue, she said. 

“This is also how the state and federal shared revenues is determined as to how we get our fair share,” Driggers said. “There is the county that gets its pot and then the municipalities get their pot, which is dependent upon population. So, it is very important that we get a good count.” 

Mayor Terrill Hill agreed with Driggers and said the city needs to take a strong lead in the county for census preparation. It could do so by holding information sessions and partnering with organizations throughout the community, he said.  

“We will start to plan to have information sessions in various parts of the communities. We will put them on in each one of our zones,” he said. 

“Whether it is through Police Athletic League, parents, high schools or the school district. They are going to have the quickest access to anybody. But let’s just make sure we flood the area and let’s take the lead from the city side.”

Palatka Daily News

1825 St. Johns Ave.
Palatka, FL 32177
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