Six top candidates have emerged out of field of 28 applicants vying for the city manager position.

Apalachicola Commissioner Anita Grove reported at Tuesday evening’s regular meeting hat the screening committee, which includes former City Engineer Bill McCartney and city residents Jim Brown, Valentina Webb, Jack Brewer and Grove, had whittled down the field based on individual scoring., tallied the numbers and arrived at the finalists.

“We looked at the preferred qualifications, and did they follow instructions?” she said, noting that knowledge and experience with Florida municipal government, a proven ability to secure grants, skills in personnel management and management of utilities, a bachelor’s degree or greater, and specialized training in public administration were all factors.

“They stand out,” she said. “They really do stand out.” 

Making the cut, in alphabetical order were:

Don Hart, from Tallahassee, a former city manager of Cuthbert, Georgia, now working in the private sector
Terry Henley, from Surfside, a former acting budget director of North Miami
Paul Larino, from Wiggins, Colorado, where he is the current city manager
William Laurence, from Union, Maine, where he is the current town manager
Ron Nally, from St. George Island, a former town manager of Lake Lure, North Carolina
James Woods, from Hogansville, Georgia., where he served as city manager 

The city commissioners agreed to hold interviews on Monday and Tuesday, July 23 and 24, and would like to make a decision by the August 7 meeting.

McCartney said the committee will call these finalists and see if they’re still interested. Plans are to begin the process at 4 p.m. on those dates, with a reception and meet-and-greet, followed by the interviews.

In May city commissioners voted to back the hiring of a city manager, ahead of the start of the next fiscal year. The individual would be on probation for their first year, and be required to attract additional monies to city coffers at or above the cost of their own compensation package, or risk termination.

The city plans a salary in the $65,000 to $85,000 range, with additional health and life insurance, sick leave and retirement benefits. Estimates are the the job will cost between $95,000 and $115,000, with about $17,000 needed to be taken out of the current fiscal year budget, which ends Sept. 30, to fund the manager for this year.

In other business the commissioners opened one bid for the former fire department property on Water Street. The bid for the three lots was for $150,000, from Harry Arnold. The commissioners voted to reject the bid, and plan to group the property with others they plan to sell, and have it handled by a broker.

After an inquiry was presented by City Planner Cindy Clark, the commissioners decided not to address a request whether specific language should be added to the code regarding what constitutes a long-term stay. The city’s code already has stipulations in several zoning areas that prevent homeowners from renting out their property for short-term stays of less than 30 days, but widespread flouting of the law to appeal to a growing tourist market has led the city to institute tougher penalties.

“There really is no mention whether houses can be rented long-term,” said Clark. “Recently realtors have requested to put it in writing.”

City Attorney Pat Floyd said it would be best not to address this issue, and let it be governed by a longstanding principle.

“If it is not prohibited it is therefore reserved to an individual as a right,” he said.