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Panama City Beach Council picks top three candidates to be new city manager

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 9:50 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Many eyes are focused on the Panama City Beach City Council as it selects a new city manager.

“We want a future for our city,” councilman Phil Chester said.

Chester said during a special meeting Monday they had 90 candidates vying for the job. Council members voted on their top 10 and selected three to interview.

“You have some other ones that have a lot of credentials with the State and Federal,” said Chester.

One of the finalists is a recognizable name to locals.

They are:

  1. Drew Whitman: PCB Police Chief since 2012; employed by the city since 1991.
  2. Jonathan H. Hayes: former chief of staff/director/senior advisor for U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in Washington DC.
  3. Kenny Haskin: City Manager City of Texarkana, Ark. since 2013; assistant city manager and director of economic development 2008-2013, City of Texarkana.

The council will now meet with the remaining three candidates individually, for a round of virtual interviews. Those interviews will take place over the next few days. Some locals were quick to express their concerns.

“I’m not a fan of dropping the education requirement for a new city manager so that you can install who you want to install,” said Burnie Thompson.

The city’s charter said city manager candidates will be chosen solely on the executive and administrative requirements in the job description. Public information officer Debbie Ward said it also asks for the city manager to have a bachelor’s degree, but it’s not required.

“We’re going to do what’s best for the City of Panama City Beach and I feel like we will,” said Chester.

Chester said he believes Monday’s meeting was successful and he’s okay with the top three candidates. Since O’Rourke’s termination, former utilities director Al Shortt has been serving as interim city manager. Ward said they still cannot release the contents of the memo O’Rourke wrote to the council, as it’s still an ongoing investigation.

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