On Tuesday, the city commission, the Citizens Advisory Board, and a group of others from the community had the opportunity to meet and interview the five final candidates over the course of several meetings and a reception.
For those who haven’t had a chance to read, hear about or see the candidates, they are:
• Michael Blow, Bowie, Md., Deputy Chief of Police (retired), Prince George’s County Police Department (Maryland)
• Karen Shinham, Md., Captain (retired), Howard County Police Department (Maryland)
• Sal Ruggiero, Odessa, Police Major, Tampa
• Bill Lee, Geneva, Associate Dean of the Center for Public Safety, Seminole State College
• Sonja White, Windermere, Deputy Chief of Police, Orlando
Although Shinham was not originally named as one of the five finalists, she was brought in after Robert Musco of Fleming Island dropped out of the running.
Although I was unable to attend the interviews or reception to meet the candidates (Tuesday is a production day for us at the Herald), I reviewed a tape of the interviews to see what each had to offer.
I think much credit is due interim City Manager Tom George for hiring a firm to narrow down the 178 candidates, being involved in the selection process, and trying to get as much input from the community before making a decision.
He also deserves a pat on the back for dealing with the incessant rumors, slanderous statements and general small-town shenanigans that have accompanied this process – namely from Commissioner Mark McCarty, who seems to have turned what should be a normal search into an inquisition.
During Tuesday’s interviews, the commission (excluding absent Commissioner Randy Jones) conducted themselves professionally with each applicant – until applicant Bill Lee stepped in.
Now, for those who aren’t in on the rumor circuit, there have been some accusations flying around that Bill Lee was pre-selected for the position and these other four finalists were simply for show. Some were even saying that he was related to Commissioner Patty Mahany, whose maiden name is Lee.
While neither were true, during Lee’s interview McCarty questioned him on the dates he had talked to city officials about the job – insinuating he was involved in the selection process before the position was open.
Mahany also stated for the record that she was not related to Lee, although they knew each other growing up.
The comments made for an uncomfortable few minutes, and once the applicant left the room, Commissioner Velma Williams summed it up: “I’m embarrassed.”
Williams went on to say that an interview was the inappropriate time to address rumors.
I’m embarrassed that Lee had to endure those kinds of statements during a time he should have been able to show off his good qualities, and I’m embarrassed that some members of our commission don’t seem to understand that they are representing an entire city – not only with their decisions, but also with their behavior.
That being said, I hope our candidates from out of town were given a favorable impression of Sanford, especially in the case that one of them should get the job.
The decision ultimately lies with George – I just hope whoever is picked is welcomed by our city and learns quickly that rumors simply grease the wheels of a passionate community that yearns to be better.
Comments can be sent to Herald editor Rachel Delinski at RDelinski@MySanfordHerald.com.