The application deadline for city manager candidates closed Friday.
Sixty individuals had submitted applications as of Wednesday, with a strong last-minute surge anticipated, according to Collin Baenzinger & Associates, the city's search firm.
The company will submit its report on the applicants on Feb. 1. Its list of five recommended finalists and alternate is due to the city on Feb. 27.
Council has its work cut out for it and on a very short turnaround - interviews are expected to take place March 22 and 23 with a meet-the-public reception scheduled for the 23rd and a council vote set for March 26.
We urge our elected officials to make the city manager selection process their top priority for the next two months.
Under Cape Coral's form of government, the city manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city - all staff, all departments, all projects.
In addition, the manager is responsible for the implementation of all council policies, directives and priorities, which, for this position, will be challenging, indeed.
As outlined in the job packet on the city's website, council is looking for a person with the background and expertise to address four primary challenges - financial, economic, infrastructure expansion and marketing
The ability to deal with the Cape's financial crisis is No. 1. Applicants have been told what Cape residents know so painfully well. Property valuations - and so tax revenues - have plummeted since the real estate bubble burst. Values that hit a high of $21.7 billion in 2007 have dropped 60 percent to $8.7 billion for 2012. Despite a significant increase in the property tax rate, tax revenues have decreased from $103.5 million in 2007 to $66.3 million for 2012.
The city wants its new manager to look hard at the municipality's budget and expenditures - including spiraling "legacy costs" due to retired employees - to meet these economic realities.
The second challenge listed is job creation. While unemployment has dipped, it is still in double digits here in Lee County, and still ahead of national averages. Our new manager will have economic development among his or her top priorities.
Third is a priority that the new council has made its own - the utility expansion project. A council consensus indicates the elected board will address how and when the controversial billion dollar initiative to expand water and sewer services citywide will begin again. The city is seeking a person with the ability to steer the UEP in the direction council determines it must go.
Lastly, council is looking for a "quiet, unassuming leader" who "thinks before speaking" to do all manner of things to improve the Cape's image. Building trust both within the community and among the city's employees is on the list. So is initiating a positive outlook and outreach, heightening morale and consensus building.
Finding the ideal candidate who can accomplish all of these things, even with the help of an executive search firm, is a challenge unto itself.
We hope council is prepared to burn the midnight oil on this one.
The public deserves nothing less than the best. And with a salary range topping out at $195,000 plus "generous" benefits, the taxpayers will accept nothing less.
- Breeze editorial