Lee R. Feldman is Gainesville’s new city manager.
The former city manager of Fort Lauderdale earned six of the seven city commissioners’ votes, with the exception of Commissioner David Arreola, who did not vote for anyone.
“I was in a different place when we picked our semifinalists and the interviews changed my mind,” Arreola said while explaining his decision to not vote. He said Friday he wanted to reopen the search.
Mayor Lauren Poe described the selection process as a “marathon couple of days.” Though a lengthy process, the commissioners were sold on the promise and potential that Feldman displayed during his interview and community outreach efforts.
Feldman, who by Friday had left Gainesville after his interviews for the position, listened to comments from the commissioners and the public on the meeting’s live stream before being announced as the new manager.
The manager’s position is among the city’s most important and highest paid, with Feldman’s recent predecessors earning annual salaries of just over $200,000.
The commissioners in support of the decision said they were impressed not only by the amount of research Feldman did, but how proactive he was in reaching out to the community to find out what their concerns were months before being selected as a finalist.
“I did a lot of my due diligence and this candidate did a lot of due diligence as well,” Commissioner Harvey Ward said. “I’ve had any number of citizens let me know that he contacted them out of the blue over the last couple of weeks to learn from community leaders what we were doing here.”
Formerly the manager of Fort Lauderdale, Feldman said that he believes that Gainesville has more potential because of its people and their passion for their community.
In addition to his research, Feldman also presented a written plan during his interview. In his agenda, he identified his top three challenges, a 100-day plan and expectations for Gainesville.
What’s the 100-day plan?
Feldman designed the first phase to be 30 days dedicated to meeting with city stakeholders. The second phase starts at the 60-day mark and is for working on long-term financial and management goals. The third phase is to be 10 days of communicating expectations with city commissioners.
Poverty, university and city relationships and the culture of organizations in Gainesville were Feldman’s three community challenges that he intends to work through.
The other candidates were complimentary and supportive of the city commission’s decision to appoint Feldman as city manager.
Harry Black, former city manager of Cincinnati, also applied for the position of city manager. Although not ultimately appointed, he was supportive of the decision and conveyed the same confidence in Feldman’s capabilities as city manager that the commissioners did.
Feldman and Black knew each other through past meetings and events they both attended.
“I would have loved to be the city manager, but that’s the way it goes,” Black said. “I know Lee, and he is a very competent and capable man. Gainesville made a good choice, and I am happy for him.”
Feldman’s reaction to being selected was as calm and collected as he seemed to be during his interviews this week.
“Let’s get to work,” Feldman said.