City Manager search comes to an end

Panama City Beach

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — After former city manager Mario Gisbert announced his resignation, the city council immediately started searching for the next city leader.

That search ended on Friday after the council voted to select Anthony O’Rourke to be the third city manager in its history.

The council partnered with head hunter Colin Baezinger to find the candidates and they received almost 60 applicants.

After narrowing it down to five, the top candidates visited the city on Thursday and Friday.

The final step was to interview face to face. Those took place Friday morning and into the afternoon.

The elected officials heard from their top applicants one last time before voting.

“I feel great about it. We had a good group of candidates. They made it really tough for us to make a decision,” said councilman Geoff McConnell.

O’Rourke says he was impressed with the council members and how hungry they are for success but it was the strength of the city’s staff that set him over the top.

“The reputation of the staff is very strong and that’s the foundation for success cause they’re the ones who get the work done. A manager is more a leader, an inspirer. They’re doing the heavy lifting so it’s good to see that,” O’Rourke said.

He says the city itself also gets him excited about the possibility of working here.

“It’s a great tourist destination clearly aspiring to do even better things. With that airport, they’re going to have even more affluent, upscale clientele so they need to continue to upgrade their services and their amenities. It’s more than just a drive marker now, it’s a fly market so that’s a win-win combination but with it comes expectations and needs of a new customer group that has to be met,” he said.

However, he knows there are some challenges facing the city.

“Meeting the growing needs of the community, the infrastructure needs, being fiscal stewards to the public’s money, working with the tourist industry. Those are all fun things and again, adding to the value of this community. It’s in a great position. Can it go higher? Absolutely with the quality of people that are here in this community so those are all positive things to look forward to”

Contract negotiations started minutes after the votes were tallied.

O’Rourke says he will let the council know in the next 24 hours if he is going to accept the position.

If he doesn’t, the city will begin talks with their runner-up, Roy Coley.

You can watch O’Rourke’s full statement to the council on Friday afternoon in the video below.

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.

Roy W. Coley: Mr. Coley has been the Public Works Director for Miami Beach, FL (population 92,307) since 201 5. 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.

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