On September 28th, the Brooksville City Council met with each of three candidates for the city manager position which included Bill Ed Cannon- Wildwood City Manager, Mark A. Kutney and William R. Whitson formerly Hapeville, GA city manager. Each council member then in turn conducted an individual interview with each candidate. Ultimately, Mark Kutney, formerly of Palm Beach was chosen for the position. Kutney is the former town manager of Loxahatchee Groves, FL (2011 - 2014).
Mayor Robert Battista welcomed Mr. Kutney and invited his opening statement. Kutney introduced himself by saying, “I do love the city management profession. I love doing this. I love the challenges that are involved. Challenges and problems are opportunities to be solved. I will obviously try to extol my virtues as we go along through this process, but I will tell you that I’m experienced, educated, and I’ve tried to be a man of achievement throughout all of my career. I’ve done a lot of things, from being an airport manager, being an emergency manager… what I didn’t know, I picked up quickly, or knew where to go to find the answers. I’ve been blessed… because I’ve decided to move around more in my career rather than stay in one position, I’ve had the ability to obtain [sic] a diversity of experience as it relates to all types of municipal county organizations.”
Vice Mayor Betty Erhard began the formal public interview by asking Mr. Kutney why he would want to be Brooksville’s City Manager.
Kutney answered, “As I indicated, I love the city manager profession, and I do love challenges. Brooksville was very attractive to me, and it’s been on my personal radar … first due to location.
You have a wonderful location, that should be a major asset for you, that you can use going into the future. At this point in time, you’re a full service city. I know there’s been a lot of discussion about what you’re going to be doing in terms of services… but that will give you a chance to improve the city. What I’ve been thinking about as it relates to the due diligence that I’ve done relative to your city, I’m thinking a ten-year plan, a short term, an intermediate-term, and a long-term, especially as it relates in terms of addressing the financial considerations that you currently have on the table.”
“I think I would be happy here working, and trying to address the challenges and problems and turning them into those outstanding opportunities,” he said.
Council Member Natalie Kahler asked of his management philosophy and style, “You mentioned you have an open-door policy. What does that look like and how you fit that in with the chain of command?”
Kutney said, “I actually mean ‘open door,’ there are very few times, unless there’s really a glut of concentration and multitasking... when I don’t need to have quiet. So there are very few times when I close the door, unless it’s a meeting with a council member, or something that’s very sensitive, and the privacy is necessary. Because it’s an open door, I usually try to make time for everybody… I try to schedule my time so if there are going to be disruptions during the day I can get back to what I need, by virtue of good, internal personal scheduling. So, I try to meet with everybody I can. I’ve always tried to meet with all citizens.” When considering that unscheduled meetings may not be possible, Kutney said he would then schedule a convenient time. He addressed his accessibility by staff, “It’s very important that you be accessible to your staff so they’re not waiting… I’m participatory, and accessible, and I try to make sure that my department heads know that if there’s an issue, we’re going to work on it together.”
Kutney went on to say, “I’m also a big believer in cross-functional teams. As problems and issues arise, I get folks together… that’s a part of that open type system.”
Council Member Joe Bernardini posed the scenario, “Describe a situation where the elected officials chose not to follow your recommendation, and decided to go in a different direction. How did you handle that situation?”
Kutney described a situation in Palm Beach County, where he told the disagreeing council, “This is not the right way to go,” and went on record (in Palm Beach County) describing the possible consequences of the council departing from his recommendation. “Sometimes you lose some support by doing that and taking that strong position, but I’ve never been one to shirk that.”
Council Member William Kemerer’s question involved effective financial management activities. “We’ve been spending a lot of time working on our expense side,” Mr. Kemerer said, and noted that Mr. Kutney had more background in development, business attraction and outsourcing of certain city services. “Give us a little more expansion on what your philosophies are in dealing with both the outsourcing of city services, as well as economic development and business attraction.”
Kutney explained his position, “(Outsourcing) is an option that you never take off the table… The idea is to get someone who is going to come in, provide the services at a more cost-effective rate, and do it hopefully better than what your internal staff is doing. Then, one thing I’ve always a point (of) is; if I’m going to be outsourcing where some folks are going to be losing their positions, and we don’t have another spot for them, (then) try to make the arrangements that the entity that’s going to provide the outsourcing… at least gives them a shot and hires them.”
“In a big-ticket type service… at some point, if outsourcing is not working, it’s very hard to reconstitute that service (into the city), once you’ve given it up.” With this in mind, Kutney stressed the importance of having a “good … working, living contract.”
To attract business, Kutney said, “I’m not a regulator, I’m a facilitator,” and went on to cite situations where focus on regulations detracted from business development. “You have to show that there is flexibility there and ... customer service.” He continued, “I’ve always tried to do what I can to make sure that we didn’t have bureaucratic red tape.”
About economic development of Brooksville, he said, “There’s a lot of vacant land … that can be packaged and used in the right way … in the long-term that could move the city into a favorable economic posture.”
Concluding Kutney’s interview, Mayor Robert Battista asked him about the day-to-day relationship between the City Manager and the City Council, to which Kutney responded, “I’d be very proactive. I’d like to meet once a week … or at least once every two weeks. A city manager, you have to be very adaptable.”