Westerly’s Town Manager Rooney a finalist for Florida manager’s position

J. Mark Rooney, who may still be celebrating his first anniversary as Westerly, Rhode Island’s town manager, is now a finalist for the city manager’s position in Panama City Beach, a popular Florida resort.

Rooney is one of five finalists scheduled for one on one interviews, city tours, and a candidates’ reception, December 12-13.

Westerly Town Council President Christopher Duhamel said today that he was surprised to learn yesterday that Rooney was pursuing the Florida position.

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.

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Rooney, meanwhile, came to Westerly after serving 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.

Duhamel, who has and still is a Rooney supporter, is hopeful of convincing Rooney to withdraw his candidacy in Florida before the December 12-13 events. The Panama City Beach Council has said if it does not decide Dec. 13, it will by Dec. 16.

The Panama City Council had initially received applications from 53 hopefuls in September to replace retiring City Manager Mario Gisbert. Gisbert has said he’ll stay on several months, if needed.

Duhamel said Rooney said he was approached about applying for the Florida job at a manager’s conference a few months ago.

From the original list of 53, the Panama City Council reduced the number to 10, and then to six. One of the finalists has withdrawn, reducing the final list to five.

The five finalists are: 

  • David Roy Coley, current Miami Beach Public Works Director. 
  • Scott Lambers, the current city administrator in Leawood, Kansas.
  •  Anthony “Tony” O’Rouke, former Canon City, Colorado, city administrator and former city manager in Coral Springs.
  • Rooney.
  • Leonard “Len” Sossamon, former county administrator in Hernando County. 

Paul Van Haute, current county manager of Putnam County and former mayor of Holly Springs, Georgia withdrew because he felt he did not have a good chance of winning the job, according to published reports.

Panama City Beach has worked with Colin Baenziger and Associates, a consulting and municipal recruitment firm that the council hired to aid with the search.

Duhamel said the Panama City Job pays about $143,000, less than the Westerly position. Rooney’s contract also calls for him to reimburse the town $15,000 if he leaves before August 2020, Duhamel said, reimbursing the town for the cost of an administrator search.

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