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NEWBERRY – The Newberry City Commission announced City Manager Keith Ashby is stepping down immediately and appointed former Mayor and City Manager Grady Hartzog as an interim replacement.

At the first city commission meeting with three newly-elected commissioners, Mayor Bill Conrad mentioned Ashby’s desire to transition to his new job with Santa Fe College and then suggested that Hartzog was willing to fill the position until a new city manager would tentatively be hired in June.

Commissioners Jordan Marlowe and Jason McGehee both questioned Conrad’s ability to recommend a specific city manager replacement, even on an interim basis, without some sort of vetting procedure.

“Since it’s for such a short term, about a 30 day period, I felt we should just go ahead and fill the position instead of going through an advertising process,” Conrad said after stating he’d already talked with Hartzog and was told he’d be willing to accept.

Hartzog served as city manager from 1984 to 1989 and as mayor/city manager from 1993 to 2004. Most recently he was city manager of Chiefland from 2007 to 2013.

Marlowe then mentioned that another former mayor, John Glanzer, was also interested. Glanzer was present at the meeting and commented that he wasn’t interested in creating controversy as both he and Hartzog were capable of handling the job.

It was also mentioned that Conrad, himself, could temporarily fill the position along with the help of Utilities Director Blaine Suggs. Conrad said he would do so if it was the will of the commission, but he would prefer not to.

After over an hour of deliberation, the commission voted three-to-two for Hartzog to be approved as interim city manager for an expected month, but for as long as six months while the interview process is conducted for a full-time manager. Dissenting votes were from Marlowe and Tim Marden.

Hartzog will be paid at the same rate as current manager Ashby for as long as he serves.

The commission also announced the decision to narrow down candidates for full-time city manager to an initial interview pool of six. Conrad had averaged the rankings each commissioner had provided to a pool of four choices from a previously narrowed list of 10, but commissioners Rick Coleman and McGehee each had a top candidate they wanted included in the interview process.

After discussion, the commission agreed to interview Stephen Cottrell, William Vance, Lyndon Bonner, Isaac Turner, Matthew Burke and Mark Clark. It was noted that each candidate except Vance (who is from Ohio) is either from Florida or has ties to Florida.

Commissioner opinions varied on what qualities were most important in a new city manager. Marlowe expressed his desire to see a manager with extensive experience with electrical utilities management, while McGehee was more concerned with having a manager with experience successfully working with a wide variety of people.

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