Search for new Long Beach city manager is under way

Schnirman’s replacement faces ‘challenging years ahead’

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The city formally began its search for a new city manager last week, as Nassau County Comptroller-elect Jack Schnirman assembles his transition team following his Nov. 7 election win.

Schnirman, who was appointed city manager in 2011, will begin his new job on Jan. 1, but will serve as city manager until then. City Council Vice President Anthony Eramo said that while the council is hoping to fill the position soon, he does not anticipate hiring a replacement by then.

“We were starting with a three-week window for applications, but we’ll keep it open if we don’t get what we’re looking for,” Eramo said. “Which is nice, because it gives us a little breathing room so we can seek the right candidate for us.”

He added that the council would be required, under the city charter, to appoint an acting city manager if it does not hire someone by Jan. 1. “We’re still discussing it,” he said. “And since we don’t know how the search is going to go, it may be premature to discuss that.”

Eramo said at last month’s meeting that the search for Schnirman’s replacement was just getting started. On Friday, the job ad was posted on Indeed and other websites after Eramo, along with council members Scott Mandel, Anissa Moore and Chumi Diamond, all Democrats, and Councilman-elect John Bendo, an independent, worked on its language.

“The five of us collaborated … until we got it just the way we liked it,” Eramo said.

“This administration found Jack,” he added, “and I’m hopeful we’re able to find someone who is smart, energetic and willing to roll up their sleeves and help the City Council continue to move the city forward.”

The ad states: “The city manager will implement and oversee policies crafted by the City Council, as well as manage this full-service city with 363 full-time employees and a fiscal year 2017-18 total budget of $110 million. The incoming city manager will be a seasoned professional and forward-thinking visionary who possesses expertise in municipal finance and financial administration; and is capable of handling economic development while ensuring the long-term financial stability of the city.”

“The council is going to review the applications, and we’re going to set up a committee with some of the department heads,” Eramo said. ‘Like any job application, we’ll start screening [candidates] and doing interviews.”

Like Schnirman, the new city manager would also be required to live in Long Beach.

Many say that Schnirman became the face of the city — he had held the job less than a year when he faced the staggering fiscal crisis that the Democrats inherited in 2012, followed shortly by Hurricane Sandy — and he has been lauded for turning its finances around and helping lead its recovery effort after the storm.

“Jack did a good job managing after the storm …,” former City Manager Ed Eaton said. “And it was a totally new world and new situation, and he handled it very well, and he’ll be a tough act to follow. Obviously, in this day and age, you need someone with a strong financial and strong operational background, and as always, the ability to deal with people, the staff and the unions.”

Before he was elected comptroller, Schnirman said that if he won, he would continue to work for the city until the end of the year. Last year he signed his third two-year contract with the city — it was to run through March 2018 — which makes him the longest-tenured city manager in Long Beach since Eaton, who served for 25 years. The latest contract pays Schnirman an annual salary of $173,871.

Rumors have circulated over who would replace him, and have included Eramo, Eaton, Police Commissioner Mike Tangney, former Department of Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba, and Marvin McMoore, 24, the city’s director of community development and public engagement and a former president of the College Democrats of America. Eramo and others, however, said the council has only begun its search.

“I can say that we’re considering all options,” Eramo said. “And I think the desire of the four council members, and council member-elect, is to find the best manager for our city, especially moving forward, in what appears to be a couple of challenging years ahead.”

Eaton said that whoever is hired will face enormous challenges, ranging from a potentially crippling $50 million judgment the city may have to pay to a developer to a federal Republican tax plan that would limit or eliminate property tax deductions.

“The $50 million is a challenge for anybody,” Eaton said. “Look at Washington D.C. It looks like they’re going to pass a … tax bill … that’s going to kill people on Long Island and Long Beach as well.”

Eramo said that with Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, which helped the city rebuild after Sandy, coming to an end, the next city manager would have re-evaluate the city’s finances. “We’re still clawing are way back in our fiscal recovery,” Eramo said, “and now that the FEMA and Sandy money is completely dried up, we really have to take a hard look at the city finances again. … We’re sort of back now where we were before Sandy, where some tough decisions will have to be made.”

Eaton, 75, said he had no desire to take on the roll again and would not apply for the job, even though many in town have urged him to do so. He would, however, consider serving as acting city manager.

“If I was asked to help, I’d be more than willing to do so,” Eaton said, adding that he had not been approached by the council. “If they’re doing a legitimate search, it could take months before they … hire someone.”