An assistant city manager for a rapidly growing community just outside Fort Lauderdale, Fla., confirmed Tuesday that he is a finalist to become Lawrence's next city manager.
Gary Shimun, an assistant city manager for Pembroke Pines, Fla., said he would be in Lawrence this weekend to interview for the position with city commissioners. Shimun has been the No. 2 administrator for the community of 150,000 people since 2003. Prior to that he was city manager for Hannibal, Mo., from 1997 to 2003.
"It looks like Lawrence is a very interesting community," Shimun said by telephone Tuesday. "I see it as a growing community that could be a real fun and interesting area to live and work."
Shimun is the first confirmed finalist for the position. City commissioners have refused to release the names or number of finalists they intend to interview this weekend.
Interim City Manager David Corliss has confirmed that he applied for the job, and there is speculation that he is a finalist for the position. Corliss, however, would not comment Tuesday on whether he was a finalist for the position.
"The City Commission has indicated a preference, to date, to keep the selection process confidential, and I'm going to honor that view," Corliss said.
Shimun said he would tout his experience in dealing with a growing community. Pembroke Pines has grown from about 40,000 people 15 years ago to about 150,000 people today. It experienced a major population boom in the early 1990s following Hurricane Andrew, when many people along the coasts relocated to the inland city.
"I understand growing pains," Shimun said. "Since I have been in a community that has grown very rapidly, I believe I know some of the things to look out for and avoid.
"From what I understand about your community, you want to grow slowly and modestly and maintain all your amenities. That means you'll have to take care of things like your parks and the factors that contribute to your quality of life."
In addition to working at Pembroke Pines and Hannibal, Shimun served as city manager for McCall, Idaho, from 1994 to 1997 and Iron River, Mich., from 1990 to 1994. He also served as the planning director for Louisville, Ohio, from 1989 to 1990.
He graduated from Northern Michigan University in 1978 and earned his master's degree in urban studies, public administration and urban planning from the University of Akron in 1991.
A former city manager who won't be in the running for the job is David Watkins, though he has strong ties to Lawrence and the area. Watkins served as the city manager of Lenexa from 1984 to 2003 and agreed this week to become the new city manager of Bryan, Texas, which is the community adjacent to the Texas A&M campus.
It is not known whether Watkins was a finalist for the Lawrence position, but he had strong ties to Lawrence because he's a graduate of Kansas University. Attempts to contact Watkins on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
City commissioners met Tuesday evening in executive session to discuss the city manager position. They emerged and agreed to meet again for closed-door executive session at 7:45 a.m. Saturday at the US Bank Tower Building at Ninth and Massachusetts streets to interview the finalists. They anticipated the process to interview all the candidates will take about 12 hours.
Commissioners are seeking a new city manager after a majority of city commissioners asked for Mike Wildgen's resignation in March following concerns about planning and the upkeep of infrastructure. Wildgen had been the city's top executive for 16 years.