Portland city manager a finalist for Florida job

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Portland City Manager Jon Jennings is a finalist for a similar position in a city near Tampa, Florida. If he is successful, he would leave Portland sooner than expected.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Jennings is one of four final candidates for the manager’s job in Clearwater, Florida, a city of more than 115,000 people northwest of Tampa and St. Petersburg, and southeast of Tampa Bay. The Clearwater City Council made the announcement during a special Aug. 5 meeting.

Portland City Manager Jon Jennings.

Clearwater received 109 applications for the position, and Jennings was the only applicant from Maine.  

Jennings, whose contract with Portland expires next July, was the assistant city manager in South Portland before being hired as Portland city manager in 2015. He declined a customary new three-year contract last year but agreed to a one-year extension. Mayor Kate Snyder had previously said the City Council would begin its search for the next city manager this fall.

Jennings recently had a mid-year review, which Snyder described as a “check-in,” not a performance evaluation. He had an official review in October 2020, which was his first review in three years.

While his tenure has been marked by budget stability and significant development in the city, his performance has also come under fire. His clashes with former Mayor Ethan Strimling over city government power-sharing helped fuel a City Charter review process that’s now underway. Several members of the Charter Commission have said the manager has too much power when it comes to creating and implementing city policy.

Last summer there were calls for Jennings’s resignation after the protests that followed the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police. Critics claimed Jennings hasn’t done enough to root out systemic racism in the city or to address major societal concerns like homelessness.

The City Council, however, supported Jennings and extended his contract.

Even if the Charter Commission recommends revising the role of the manager – or even abolishing the job entirely – it won’t affect Jennings, who will be gone before the commission sends its recommendations to voters.

In-person interviews for the Florida position are scheduled for Sept. 1-2.

The other three finalists are Milton Dohoney Jr., the former assistant city manager in Phoenix, Arizona; Alfred Fletcher, assistant chief administrative officer of Montgomery County, Maryland, and Keith Moffett, the county manager for Macon-Bibb County, Georgia.

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