Final five City Manager candidates visit Panama City Beach


PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Come Friday evening, Panama City Beach officials could select their newest City Manager.

This will be only the third city manager in the city’s history.

The top five candidates are Roy Coley, Scott Lambers, Leonard Sossamon, Ben Newhouse, and Anthony O’Rourke.

The men visited the city on Thursday and took a tour of the city, attended a welcome reception with councilman and city staff and then listened in on a city council meeting.

Interviews will continue on Friday morning with one on one interviews with the council and then a special public meeting at 1:00 p.m. inside City Hall.

The council predicts that it will wrap up around 3:00 and then they will further discuss and vote on who should fill the spot.

You can see what the candidates had to say about their visit and also some challenges they city the city facing in the video above.

Scott Lambers did not attend the reception on Thursday night and will miss Friday’s events due to family obligations. His interviews were conducted on Wednesday.

The biographies of all five candidates are below.

Roy W. Coley: Mr. Coley has been the Public Works Director for Miami Beach, FL (population 92,307) since 2015. Prior to this employment, he was the Operations Manager for the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (serving a population of approximately 70,000) for ten years and the Town Superintendent for Falkville, AL (population 1,192) for nine years. Mr. Coley’s leadership style can best be described as participative. Every team member and stakeholder are encouraged to participate and provide input. The consensus is always the goal but when consensus is not possible, he will make the decision. The biggest success of his career was leading the recovery effort for the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority after Hurricane Wilma. After experiencing minor impacts from Hurricanes Dennis, Emily, Katrina, and Rita; Hurricane Wilma dealt a devastating blow. The water treatment plant lost power, the backup power generators failed, the water distribution system was leaking in more places than could be quickly repaired, buildings were flooded with saltwater, and many of the agency’s vehicles were lost. One of the senior Board of Directors members asked Mr. Coley what he thought everyone should be doing. Mr. Coley shared his thoughts and then was put in charge of the entire recovery effort of the 120 square mile area (which incidentally is also about 120 miles long). He organized teams and systematically repaired the utility systems and remodeled the offices. The experience taught him what was important in hurricane preparedness and recovery that will transfer to any coastal community. Mr. Coley has a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from St. Thomas University and a master’s degree in business administration from Saint Leo University.

Scott Lambers: Mr. Lambers has been the City Administrator for Leawood, KS (population 34,659) since 2001. Previously he was the City Manager for Ottawa, KS (population 12,074) for eight years and the City Administrator for Chowchilla, CA (population 9,894) for four years. His management style is participative, but with a clear understanding that for issues being addressed at the staff level, his role is to make the final decision. Upon reaching a decision, he carefully explains his reasoning so the staff can better understand his perspective. That helps guide their management of future issues and projects while providing him with feedback, should they still have concerns. He gives the staff a great deal of leeway in the operation of their respective departments but expects them to consult with him as soon as a significant issue arises. One of his more significant achievements occurred in Chowchilla where he negotiated the annexation of 1,100 acres for a golf course/residential community. The process took nearly two years and it almost doubled the size of the City. It was extremely challenging because it had to be approved by an outside public entity called LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) that heavily favored the County. It took a great deal of effort and good faith negotiations on both sides to make this annexation a reality. The annexation has contributed significantly to the prosperity of ofthe City. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas, and a master’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M University.

Benjamin B. Newhouse: Mr. Newhouse has been the City Manager for the City of Hurricane, WV (population 7,000) since 2005. Before that he worked for the Upper Kanawha Valley Enterprise Community for seven years and for the state of West Virginia for six years. Mr. Newhouse utilizes a democratic style of leadership. Team perspective and buy-in are crucial elements of that style. Hurricane has been acknowledged as an innovative community that has blazed various new paths over the years, and as a result, many cities and counties have called the City for advice and knowledge. One such innovation is becoming the largest housing rehab provider in the State and helping initiate programs in several communities in West Virginia. Mr. Newhouse has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from West Virginia University’s Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in strategic leadership from Mountain State University.

Anthony O’Rourke: Mr. O’Rourke was most recently the City Administrator for Canon City, CO (population 16,539) for three years. Prior to that employment, he was the City Manager for Yakima, WA (population 93,476) for four years, the City Manager for South Lake Tahoe, CA (population 21,307) for two years. He also served as the Assistant City Manager for Tallahassee, FL (population 134,366) for one year and he worked for Coral Springs, FL (population 99,914) for six years, with three of them as the City Manager. Mr. O’Rourke’s management style is proactive, collaborative, strategic, customer-focused and results-oriented. Some of his achievements are leading the cities of Coral Springs, South Lake Tahoe, and Yakima through the transformation of traditional government bureaucracies to ones that work better and faster while costing less. He does so by creating a shared vision, a strategic plan, and a commitment to an entrepreneurial business model. As a result of these efforts, Coral Springs was awarded the State of Florida Sterling Award for creating a quality-driven, high-performance organization. [Note: The Sterling Award is based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria, and some years later, the City also won the Baldrige Award]. In 2015, the National Civic League awarded the City of Yakima the All-America City Award for creating a community partnership to address at-risk minority youth challenges — in particular, those youth who might be susceptible to gang lifestyles. Mr. O’Rourke has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Cornell University.

Leonard Sossamon: Mr. Sossarnon most recently served as the County Administrator for Hernando County, FL (population 186,553) for seven years. Previously, he was the County Administrator for Ncwbeny County, SC (population 37,808) for two years, and he worked for the City of Concord, NC (population 48,050) for eighteen years, serving as the City Manager for the last eleven years. Mr. Sossamon’s management style is marked by adaptability and resiliency as well as leading by example. A good manager will observe, evaluate and adopt strategies with staff input to move the organization forward. No one person has all the answers, so collaboration is a key to success. Mr. Sossamon considers his biggest achievement to be the development of the Concord Regional Airport. The City and Cabarrus County had discussed building an airport since the 1 940s. The North Carolina DOT projected that it would take ten years to build. Mr. Sossamon put together a great team, used some of the City’s very healthy reserves, and built the airport in thirty-three months. This airport’s annual contribution to the North Carolina economy is now approaching $1 billion dollars. Mr. Sossarnon has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in urban geography from the University of North Carolina.

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