By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
LAKE HELEN-The City Commission narrowed 56 applicants for city administrator down to nine candidates at a special meeting Aug, 16.
"There's some very good candidates in that file of nine," Mayor Buddy Snowden said in an interview after the meeting.
The nine are Christopher Chinault, Kent Cichon, Marcus Collins, Matthew Effird, Judith Jankosky, Scott Lippmann, Robert Museus, Blake Proctor, and Tony Segreto. Only Mr. Segreto lives in Volusia County. Mr. Museus is in Wisconsin, and Mr. Effird in North Carolina. The rest are from different parts of Florida.
At its next regular meeting, Sept. 13, the commission will decide when to conduct interviews. At the special meeting, it opted not to pay any of the applicant's traveling expenses for the interviews.
"In all probability we'll do individual interviews and then a collective interview," the mayor said. "We'll have some sort of venue to have the public involved."
The current city administrator, Don Findell, announced his retirement in May. He's moved to Georgia, but continues to work for the city. Mr. Findell was Lake Helen's first administrator. He started the job not long after it was created in 2001. Before then Lake Helen had a city clerk who was essentially forced to act as a city administrator, which frequently led to controversies.
Mr. Findell's term wasn't always smooth. During the 2007 mayoral and commission elections, he became the wedge issue. That year, then Mark Shuttleworth, then mayor, and commissioners Lewis Long and Mr. Snowden spent much of their campaign time defending Mr. Findell's wages - $130,000 a year including benefits at the time. On the other side, Joan Duffy - who won the mayoral race - and commission candidates Ann Robbins and Mark Moir frequently decried the pay as an indefensible king's ransom and symbol of extravagant city spending.
Although the election dramatically changed the commission, Mr. Findell kept his job, and wages. Mr. Snowden said Lake Helen politics have greatly quieted in the last five years, and he doesn't expect the next city administrator to go through similar troubles.
"We're going to have to have a good marriage between the community and that administrator," he said.
Commissioner Rick Basso said he's pleased with those who applied for the city administrator job.
"I think we had an eclectic array of candidates," he said. "I feel very good that most of the candidates in the group of nine would satisfy our needs."
Mr. Findell will continue with the city until the commission adopts its 2012-2013 budget. The new administrator will likely start sometime in October.