Westerly Town Manager Rooney withdraws application for Florida manager’s position

J. Mark Rooney, the Westerly, RI town manager who last week was named a finalist for the city manager’s position in Panama City Beach, Florida, has withdrawn his application. He was among five finalists, and was scheduled for a town tour, reception, and interview, Dec. 12-13.

According to the Panama City Herald, Rooney dropped out “due to political reasons, as the newspaper up there reported he is a finalist.”

Rooney is completing his first year as Westerly Town Manager and has a three-year contract that pays him $160,000 a year, with no salary increases, according to Council Vice President Suzanne Giorno. He can receive, however, a yearly bonus and Giorno said he was awarded a 2 percent bonus — $3,200.

The Panama City Beach job reportedly pays $143,000 a year.

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Rooney was among 53 who applied for the Panama City Beach manager’s position in early fall. He survived the cut when the field was reduced to 10, and then when it was reduced to six. He was among four candidates that received support from three of the five Panama City Beach councilors. 

Paul Van Haute, current county manager of Putnam County, Georgia, who also received three votes, withdrew after the vote because “he did not feel his chances of getting the job were that good,” according to the Panama City newspaper.

The four remaining candidates are Scott Lambers of Kansas; Roy Coley of Miami Beach; Leonard “Len” Sossaman of Myrtle Beach and Hernando County Fla.; and Anthony “Tony” O’Rourke of Canon City, Colorado. The council added Benjamin Newhouse of West Virginia to replaced Rooney on the finalist list.

Panama City Beach City Manager Mario Gisbert is retiring.

Giorno echoed comments from Westerly Council President Christopher Duhamel, who last week praised Rooney and said the town was hopeful it could convince Rooney to drop out of the Panama City Beach competition.

Rooney came to Westerly from Illinois, chosen after an extensive search to replace Derrik M. Kennedy, who left after two and a half years for a similar job in Connecticut. Kennedy said when he resigned that he didn’t have the full support of the Town Council.

Rooney had served in similar positions in Illinois, not far from Chicago. While he came to Westerly, Rooney still maintained his residence in Illinois and had not purchased a home in Westerly, Duhamel said.

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