Coral Gables

Three veteran local leaders vying for Coral Gables manager position

Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, Hollywood city manager, had been the director of economic development for Coral Gables for 20 years.
Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, Hollywood city manager, had been the director of economic development for Coral Gables for 20 years. HERALD STAFF

The former head of the Beacon Council, a Miami deputy city manager, and the current Hollywood city manager who was a Coral Gables development director are three top contenders for the Gables city manager position, city sources said Friday.

Frank Nero, who resigned as CEO of the Beacon Council last year; Alice Bravo, the Miami deputy city manager who has been the point person on the cleanup of the city’s parks; and Hollywood City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, who for 20 years ran the Gables' economic development department, have all expressed interest in the top job in Coral Gables, city sources said.

City attorney Craig Leen would not comment on the names Friday.

“We do not have the list of finalists yet,’’ Leen said. “Once we have that list, it will be made public. The city manager will be chosen at a public meeting where the public will have an opportunity to speak and have their views considered.’’

There are no public records to confirm the short list because the city decided to keep the process confidential.

Nero declined comment Friday. He referred questions to Bud Park, whom the city hired last month for $25,000 to conduct a 60-day search.

“My job is to keep confidentiality during this process,’’ Park said. “…Confidentiality is what brings better candidates to the table."

Swanson-Rivenbark and Bravo did not return phone calls from the Herald on Friday.

Commissioners Vince Lago, Patricia Keon and Frank Quesada would not comment on the list. Mayor Jim Cason and Vice Mayor Bill Kerdyk Jr. did not respond to phone messages Friday.

The city has had a convoluted process in hiring a new manager. Pat Salerno resigned as city manager in April after five years on the job. The city then hired Colin Baenziger & Associates, a Daytona Beach Shores firm, to conduct a search, paying the firm $30,000.

Based on Baenziger’s slate of candidates, the city hired Jim Beard, Atlanta’s chief financial officer for four years. A day after he was hired, Beard withdrew his name after details surfaced in court records about a bankruptcy, suspended driver’s licenses and a paternity suit. Baenziger apologized in an email to the city, noting his firm forgot to ask applicants to disclose past lawsuits.

Nero, Bravo and Swanson-Rivenbark emerged from a longer list of candidates who included former county manager George Burgess; former Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Chip Iglesias; and Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Director Bill Johnson. All were approached by Park but showed no interest, sources said.

“I'm happy doing what I'm doing,’’ said Burgess, who resigned in 2011, a day after a vote by the public to recall then-County Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

Johnson told the Herald he was not interested; Iglesias did not return a phone call.

Nero had been the Beacon Council CEO for nearly 17 years. He resigned last year after a public spat with then county commissioner Lynda Bell and after he came out publicly against gambling. Nero had come to Miami from New Jersey, where he witnessed the deleterious effects of gambling on Atlantic City.

Bravo has been at the city of Miami since 2010. She has overseen the survey of Miami’s 112 parks and is orchestrating the cleanup plan of seven parks that the city closed or partially closed due to toxic soil.

Swanson-Rivenbark left Coral Gables in 2009 after 20 years as the city’s economic development director to become assistant city manager in Hollywood. In 2012, she was named city manager, after two stints as interim manager.

City commissioners and the mayor will meet with potential candidates throughout the weekend and following week.

“I'm looking forward to turning a page on the past six months,’’ Lago said. “The city has been void of a permanent city manager and I look forward to hiring an individual who implements the policies of the commission, while leading the city in its day-to-day operations in the most transparent and efficient manner.’’

After Salerno left, commissioners named Carmen Olazabal as interim city manager.

Keon said further details will not be disclosed until the city picks official candidates who turn in a resume.

“They've asked us to keep it confidential because we're only in the talking stages,’’ Keon said. “Nobody has submitted any paperwork, any resumes. We’ll make a decision as to who we want to move forward with soon.’’

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