By Joe Capozzi
Ocean Ridge town commissioners have narrowed their search for a new town manager to six candidates, including interim town manager Lynne Ladner.
The others, chosen from a field of 15 applicants, are Michelle Berger, Raymond Bossert, Steven Crowell Jr., Ryan Fabbri and Larry Tibbs.
Commissioners plan to hold two rounds of interviews in October before picking a new manager. The first round of interviews will be held at Town Hall via Zoom at 10 am. Oct. 12, when commissioners hope to narrow the field. The final round of interviews will be done in person at Town Hall at 10 a.m. Oct. 19, followed by a commission vote that day on the position.
At a special meeting Sept. 29, commissioners first decided Ladner would be considered, a desire she’d expressed when the commission hired her on an interim basis to replace Tracey Stevens. Stevens left Sept. 11 to take the town manager’s job in Haverhill.
Next, on the recommendation of the town attorney, the commission included Bossert and Tibbs to be interviewed because they are military veterans entitled under federal law to "veterans' preference" over other candidates. Commissioners then chose their own top preferences to add to the field and collectively ranked Crowell first, followed by Fabbri and Berger.
Three of the candidates to be interviewed have experience in Florida. Tibbs is the city manager in Moore Haven. Berger, a Port St. Lucie City Council member from 2004 to 2016, served as town manager in Sewall’s Point from 2019 until January. She was a candidate for the Ocean Ridge interim position but withdrew.
And Crowell, city administrator in Jefferson, Missouri, for the past eight years, previously served as North Port city manager from 2005 to 2010.
Of the others, Bossert is village administrator of Port Edwards, Wisconsin, and Fabbri served until May as town administrator for Pawleys Island, South Carolina.
The Ocean Ridge job was posted in notices on the websites of the Florida City and County Management Association and the International City and County Management Association. The job was also advertised in The Palm Beach Post and The Coastal Star.
“One can never tell who might be in the market and who might apply. I can tell you I was slightly surprised there were only 15 applicants,’’ said Dan Kleman, a senior advisor with FCCMA, which is providing free services to help Ocean Ridge find a permanent town manager.
“I would have expected more than that, but I don't know that there was any other outreach that we would have taken that would have generated any more," he told commissioners Sept. 29.
“However, I will submit to you that of the candidates who have expressed an interest, you have a number of candidates who can, I believe, very ably handle the responsibilities of the being the Ocean Ridge town manager."’