HIGH SPRINGS – The search for a new city manager in High Springs has come down to one candidate.
Judith Jankosky, current assistant city manager in Arcadia, Fla., was interviewed Sept.15 at a special meeting of the High Springs city commission. She answered questions about her plans and qualifications, explaining her interest in small towns.
“I’d rather be in a small-town setting than Miami or Orlando,” she said. “I understand the politics.”
The city started off with five candidates for the position, eventually narrowing the applicants down to Jankosky and Terry Leary at a meeting on Aug. 25. Leary took a job elsewhere after that meeting, leaving Jankosky as the final candidate.
With a bachelor’s degree in growth management and a doctorate in law, Jankosky is extremely qualified for the position, Commissioner Eric May said. However, he questioned her ability to take on her first city manager job in a city undergoing difficult times.
She said she understands the infrastructure of small towns. Prior to working in Arcadia, she did consulting for Lady Lake, Fla.
There she worked on expansion, explaining that the area experienced $200 million worth of development in three years. She called that situation luck.
“Arcadia is a different story,” she said. “It’s probably more like High Springs, just all of a sudden, everything suddenly dropped off. It has been a struggle.”
However, she said that her financial management style has proven effective, leading to her departments in Arcadia being under budget.
Jankosky said she plans to bring her hands-off management style to High Springs, allowing heads to run their own departments without micromanagement.
At the meeting, she put an emphasis on her open-door policy for staff and citizens alike. She said she is committed to keeping citizens engaged and informed about politics.
“I know they are so busy. It’s hard,” she said.
Jankosky suggested a new approach, perhaps even allowing citizens to attend meetings via Skype. In that way, citizens can take care of responsibilities at home and still go to meetings.
In order to maintain a strong relationship with the public, she said she will have a presence in local groups. This is a practice she follows in her current position, staying involved with groups like the Mural Society and Together Everyone Achieves More.
She and her employees must always be available “to speak, to talk, to listen and to really hear what the people are saying, not just brush them off,” she said. “You have to listen to them.”
Jankosky has lived in small towns her entire life, she explained.
Originally from upstate New York, she was born and raised on a farm. She then lived in Lady Lake for 25 years, holding jobs ranging from 911 dispatcher to engineering firm consultant.
Opening an environmental planning and consulting company led her to seek a law degree to better serve her clients, she said. However, after earning her doctorate, she decided she was too old for the courtroom.
At that point, she got involved in planning for the government in Lady Lake. Last year, she took her current position in Arcadia.
After the meeting, Jankosky attended a meet-and-greet with High Springs residents to hear their concerns.
The city commission will vote Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. to decide whether to negotiate a contract with Jankosky or to continue the search for additional city manager candidates.
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