state of the city

Gainesville City Manager Anthony Lyons speaks during the 2018 State of the City Address on Wednesday at the Gainesville Police Department. 

The Gainesville City Commission is on a tight deadline to select an interim city manager.

Thursday is the selection deadline as City Manager Anthony Lyons’ resignation becomes effective at 5 p.m., Commissioner David Arreola said. If no decision is made, the commission will appoint someone as acting manager instead. Lyons had sent in his letter of resignation on Dec. 11 after citizen complaints during a city commission meeting.

In 2018, Lyons made more than $220,000, according to city data.

Deborah Bowie, Michelle Park and Steve Varvel are the candidates for the position, Arreola said.

All three candidates are current city employees but none are interested in the permanent manager position.

On Dec. 18, the position opened to city employees for five days, said Lisa Jefferson, the city’s director of human resources, at the Jan. 3 City Commission meeting. Bowie, 48, and Varvel, 55, applied.

At that commission meeting, commissioners voiced concern for the short application period. After a 7-0 vote, they chose to extend the period for five days, which is when Park applied.

“For the interim manager, I want someone that’s going to be a steady hand on the wheel of the ship,” Arreola said.

In 2013, Bowie moved to Gainesville from Georgia in search of a better education for her son, she said. In May, she became the chief of staff for the city manager. In Georgia and Alabama, she worked in high-level city positions.

Bowie said the interim city manager should focus on government operations and empowering people rather than focusing on personal priorities.

“Sometimes when people haven’t lived in other places they don’t realize that the issues facing their community aren’t unique,” Bowie said.

If she does get the position, she says she would rather explore different employment options than become the permanent city manager.

Park, 64, the assistant director of Wild Spaces and Public Places, has spent about 10 years working for the city parks department. She said she has more than 40 years of public parks and recreation experience, previously in Ohio, Maryland and Palm Beach County, which has given her a “fulfilling and satisfying” career.

Park said she has wanted to contribute to Gainesville in a greater way, and the position would be a good way to end her career before retiring in September.

Varvel, 55, has worked for the city for 29 years across multiple positions, Varvel said. Since 1998, he has been the risk management director.

Varvel said because of his experience he would not need to establish new relationships as interim city manager. He went on to say that receiving the position would be like giving back to the city that has presented him with many opportunities.

“I feel like I owe them for investing in me. That’s really the main motivation for even showing interest in this,” Varvel said.

Varvel said if he gets the position, he would like to go back to being risk management director instead of pursuing a full-time position.

Lyons will remain an advisor to the interim manager until Feb. 14. Selection for a permanent manager is expected in six to eight months, Arreola said.

Contact Taylor Girtman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @taylorgirtman.