By Mary Thurwachter
After narrowing its search to four candidates, the Lantana Town Council chose Brian Raducci, assistant city manager of Aventura, to become the next town manager.
He will fill the position vacated by Deborah Manzo, who left in June to become the administrator of Okeechobee County.
Raducci, 51, is a CPA with 25 years of local government managerial experience in Broward and Miami-Dade municipalities.
He resides in Coral Springs and his first day on the job will be Oct. 11.
During a question-and-answer session before the Town Council on Aug. 19, Raducci described the manager’s job as a “people person-orientated position.”
“I think it’s instrumental that you get a person who you believe is the best fit, not necessarily the person who has the most experience,” he said. “I bring forth a sense of calmness. People feel it’s easy to approach me, to talk to me and discuss their issues and I’m very much about collaboration.”
He says Lantana is a unique community.
“I find it to be a very charming community and it’s got a sense of small-town-ness to it that I really find endearing. … I think you want to move the town forward without jeopardizing that small-town charm or that small-town feel.”
Mayor Robert Hagerty said he had received a bunch of compliments about Raducci. “And more importantly, I got word that you were contacting people prior to your meeting with us,” Hagerty said.
Among those people was Dave Arm, president of the local Chamber of Commerce.
“Only one candidate contacted me: Raducci,” Arm said. “And he called me back again because he had done his research. I was very impressed he did his homework.”
Raducci served as Aventura assistant city manager in charge of finance and administration for 13 years. He said he wanted to advance his career and had applied to become the manager at a few other Florida municipalities in recent years.
Lantana’s second choice for the position was John Lege III, Delray Beach’s finance director. Lege’s background includes a 21-year Navy career, working as an independent auditor specializing in audits of local governments, chief financial officer for Ocala and both finance director and assistant city manager in Sarasota.
Like Raducci, Lege said that in preparation for his interview, he reviewed minutes and listened to audio of the town meetings for the past six months.
“But more importantly, I’ve spent some time in the community,” he said. “I started this before I even knew there was a position available. We’ve come downtown to the breakfast place and the Key Lime place.”
In a drive around town he came across a police officer who shared her thoughts on the town as well. “She represented the Police Department in a wonderful way,” Lege said.
He said he also stopped by the Chamber of Commerce office to talk with Executive Director Hector Herrera.
“One of the things he talked about is communication,” Lege said. “I think transparency and communication are paramount.”
Council member Lynn Moorhouse said he was impressed with Lege’s viewing Lantana as a destination. “He already goes to the Dune Deck. He has great ideas about what we can do to develop downtown.”
Rounding out the field of finalists were Larry Collins, manager of Louisville, Ohio; and Lawrence McNaul, county manager for the Hardee Board of County Commissioners.
“I think we’ve done our due diligence, for sure,” Hagerty said. “I talked to many of our employees and most everybody I talked to was in favor of Mr. Raducci. So, I’m very confident in our selection.”
Terms of Raducci’s contract were negotiated during a meeting among the mayor, Town Attorney Max Lohman, Raducci and hiring consultant Colin Baenziger.
At a special meeting Sept. 9, the council approved a 5-year contract for Raducci that includes an annual salary of $175,000, 1,040 vacation hours, 400 hours of sick time, $12,000 a year to lease a car, health and dental insurance, cell phone, laptop and scanner. The town will contribute 15% of his salary to a retirement account.
During public comments, former Mayor Dave Stewart said that previous town managers came in at the same salary as the person they replaced.
Manzo worked for the town for nine years and made a starting salary of $97,476 a year (what the previous manager was making) and earned $159,000 at the time she left.
Stewart said the contract was excessive and sent the wrong message to other town employees.
“Look at the long-term effects and make sure this isn’t something you’ll be sorry for in the future,” he said.
Moorhouse defended the contract.
“I feel strongly we are getting what we are paying for,” he said. “We have the right to fire him if he goes to hell.”