by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
The three city manager finalists sat through a round of questions from Sanibel City Council yesterday, Sept. 29, in a public interview-style meeting at MacKenzie Hall. Council will make its decision at 5 p.m. today, Sept. 30, in a special meeting at City Hall, 800 Dunlop Rd.
Sanibel resident and former Councilman Chauncey Goss encouraged council members to “listen to each other” in today’s meeting and find out what strengths and weaknesses they want collectively. “The wisdom of the group will win out,” he said.
Jeff Durbin, Dana Souza and Keith Williams are the three finalists for Sanibel City Manager following the retirement of Judie Zimomra after 20 years in the position. Council queried each of the candidates on a range of topics, from management style to sustainability, affordable housing and strategic planning.
Souza brings more than 35 years of experience in local government with 11 of those years in Southwest Florida. He is currently the interim city manager for Naples, but spent nearly five years as the city’s Community Services Director and Deputy City Manager. He spent six years with the City of Marco Island, located 65 miles south of Sanibel.
Durbin has 25 years experience in local government with nearly 21 of those years in Colorado, where he spent 16 years as town manager of Fraser and most recently the interim town manager for Frisco. Durbin said he is looking for “new challenges” at this point in his career.
Both men said their top priority, should they be hired, is to start building important relationships.
Williams is the internal candidate who has been with the City of Sanibel for nine years of his 13-year career. He served as the Public Works Director until he was promoted to Community Services Director in 2018. He has held the title of City Engineer for the past nine years. And part of his job description is to be a professional engineer in Florida or obtain such certification within six months of being hired.
The Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation does not list Williams as a licensed professional engineer in the state and some residents have voiced their concern over his misuse of the P.E. designation in his signature and misrepresenting himself as a licensed professional engineer.
It’s prohibited by Florida law for an unlicensed person to use the P.E. designation or practice engineering.
“By holding himself as a Professional Engineer in Florida – and it appears he has done that – Mr. Williams may well be in violation of law under Florida Statutes. These are serious matters,” Committee of the Islands President Larry Schopp wrote in an email to council.
Schopp wrote that COTI believes city employees must be held to the same high standards as our elected officials, which means being fully qualified for the positions they hold and have sound judgment. “We have serious doubts about Mr. Williams’ qualifications and his judgment and for those reasons believe he should be disqualified,” Shopp’s email said.
When Councilman Scott Crater asked Williams to address the professional engineer issue yesterday during his public interview, he said he has been working with City Attorney John Agnew since it was brought forward and has done nothing to put the city in jeopardy. “I believe it’s a closed issue,” Williams said.
Mayor Holly Smith asked Williams how he would “heal” the community’s trust if he was put in the city manager role. He said residents should reflect on his nine years of service to the city and the investments he has made in the community.
Zimomra called Williams a “steady hand at the rudder” and spoke of his success in key roles of several major projects in her recent exit-style interview. He also has the support of many residents who feel he is the right person for the job and the island.
In their interviews, Councilman Crater asked Souza and Durbin if their credentials had ever been called into question. Both candidates said, “No.”
Anyone who would like to submit public comment in advance of today’s special meeting can email the city clerk at email@example.com by noon. Public comment can also be made in the meeting.
Unfortunately, this article does not fully explain the details regarding the Mr. Williams and the topic of his engineer license. Mr. Williams obtained his Professional Engineer license in the state of Georgia prior to being hired by Sanibel. The City did not require him to transfer his license to the state of Florida and the license has not been a requirement for any of his positions that he has held with the City. Additionally, Sanibel City Attorney Agnew verified this publicly and stated no wrongdoing occurred. I also find it interesting that the article did not mention the overwhelming public support Mr. Williams has received in the past weeks from past and current leaders in our community. Mr. Williams’ commitment to our community and leadership during adversity – Hurricane Irma, red tide, and numerous capital improvement projects – far out-weighs any misunderstanding regarding the licensure topic.
Keith Williams did earn his PE designation in Georgia and only put it on his email signature and has never done any Engineering work under the auspices of a PE. The designation simply shows the breadth of his knowledge. I’m sure none of us thought the City was poorly run because Keith’s email had an improper designation. On the contrary, I have been impressed with how well our City is run and that is due in no small part to Keith Williams.
A P.E. certification is required for the position Keith Williams currently holds. He knew that, yet did nothing about it. A professional license cannot be transferred from one state to another; a person must sit for it all over again. That Williams thinks this problem is behind him shows how out of touch he is with reality and ethics. This is just the tip of the iceburg.
Before today’s 5pm meeting, I encourage the Mayor and City Council to either postpone their vote or make their selection between the two qualified outside candidates.