The Gainesville City Commission selected Anthony Lyons as its new city manager today, bringing to an end the months-long search process that followed the November 2015 resignation of Russ Blackburn after his 10 years in the post.
Lyons, who has served as interim city manager since Blackburn’s resignation, was chosen from 95 initial applicants and five finalists.
The finalists went through two rounds of interviews with the commissioners this week.
The first set of interviews with the seven-member Gainesville City Commission were held on Tuesday, with each candidate answering the same set of 15 questions. The commissioners held a second round of interviews with the candidates on Wednesday, before deciding on Lyons on Thursday during the city commission meeting at City Hall.
Along with taking over as interim city manager over the last five months, Lyons was also working as director of planning and services. He previously served two separate periods as the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency Director.
He began his career in Claremont, New Hampshire as the city’s Planning and Development Director, a position he held for three years, before coming to Gaineville the first time in 2006.
Lyons left his position with the CRA to join Capital City Development Corporation in Boise, ID in 2011.
Russ Blackburn hired him back to the CRA in 2013, a position he held before taking over as city manager.
While most of the commissioners were in favor of Lyons, not everyone was in agreement.
Harvey Budd, city commissioner at large, was skeptical of voting for Lyons.
“I was bothered by the process and got misinformation,” he said.
Budd felt the commission had already chosen Lyons before giving the other candidates consideration.
“They (the candidates) were all bright and had done their homework…the only thing he (Lyons) lacks is that he hasn’t been a city manager yet,” Budd said. “He lacks a certain amount of experience and that’s the biggest weakness that we have to overcome.”
Lyons was approved 7-0 by the commission.
The rest of the city commission felt Lyons was the obvious choice.
“Mr. Lyons has earned my support unequivocally through several years,” Randy Wells, city commissioner for District 4, said. ““I absolutely believe he is right person for this fit.”
Charles E. Goston, District 1 City Commissioner, said Lyons had won his trust.
““If we have enough faith in that person to be an interim, we should be able to stand behind him…because he’s one of ours,” he said.
Lyons is expected to make between $150,000 and $225,000 per year.
Colin Baenziger and Associates, an executive recruiting firm based in Palm Beach County, was paid $20,000 to help in the search.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the vote was 6-1, with Commissioner Helen Warren dissenting. Warren did vote against the motion to send Lyons to a vote but voted for him in the end.