Gainesville City Commission appoints interim city manager

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The Gainesville City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to offer the position of interim city manager to a veteran government manager and university executive from South Florida.

Cynthia Curry is a former executive vice president of finance and administration at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. Her portfolio in that position included the areas of controller, budgeting, cash management, facilities management, human resources, information management and technology, purchasing and procurement, campus safety and security.

Curry’s bio describes her as a “seasoned and results-oriented business manager” who has also served as an assistant county manager and senior advisor for the Miami-Dade County office of the mayor. In that capacity, she oversaw the departments of finance, housing, property appraisal, fair employment practices, economic development and international travel, among others.

Curry is currently serving as diversity officer with the Everglades Foundation in Palmetto Bay.

“She knows not the city of Gainesville as an organization, but she knows the people of Gainesville and what our communities are like,” City Commissioner Reina Saco said during a special commission meeting held to discuss the candidates for interim city manager.

The commission focused on 10 of 22 candidates – eight of whom work outside of city government. Lee Feldman resigned last month after serving as city manager since late 2019.

Feldman’s last day will be Nov. 12, and the commission will hold another meeting soon to finalize Curry’s contract for interim city manager.

Mayor Lauren Poe suggested early during the meeting Tuesday that every commissioner rank their favored candidates. They all expressed appreciation for the other applicants, but then made it a point to highlight their interest in Curry.

City Commissioner David Arreola said he was impressed with her demeanor, and that she has what he considers to be a strong grasp of the leadership skills that will be necessary for the upcoming year. City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos agreed.

“Having extensive management experience at the local level is very important to me – and Cynthia Curry has that,” Hayes-Santos said.

He also said that as an external candidate Curry brings a fresh set of eyes to the table and can develop solutions in ways that may be difficult for insiders to recognize.

During the public portion of the meeting, Cynthia Chestnut, the first Black woman elected to the City Commission in 1987, said Curry was also her choice for the position. Curry should be should be considered a long-term appointment instead of a temporary one, Chestnut said.

“She is an excellent candidate,” the former commissioner said.

Poe agreed and added that Curry’s recruitment would benefit Gainesville and the commission.

“To me, Ms. Curry clearly presented herself as the right candidate at this time, and she will be a phenomenal addition to our team,” the mayor said.

Gainesville resident Michael Perkins expressed his concerns Tuesday about the city commission’s selection process for the interim city manager’s position. (Arlett Villalona/WUFT News)

Michael Perkins, another Gainesville citizen, expressed frustration with the commission’s selection process and argued that it lacked community involvement.

“You are all ready to vote, so why am I here?” Perkins said. “I came here thinking that you guys would ask us what we think. Why are we not a part of this process, and why are you making decisions on our behalf without allowing us to have any input? I just don’t feel right about that.”

In response, Poe said the urgency in finding a qualified candidate to fill the interim position required that the commission act in a timely manner.

“We will host community meetings and meet and greets for finalists running for permanent positions, but interim positions must be filled as soon as possible,” the mayor said.

About Arlett Villalona

Arlett is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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