Osceola County Developments

St. Cloud city manager search zeroing in on "growth" managers

St. Cloud's City Council could hire a new city manager on Oct. 8

The St. Cloud City Council is scheduled to interview the three finalists for city manager during the Oct. 8 council meeting. The new manager will be entrusted with leading a city that is growing rapidly through annexation and has a renewed focus on infill development.

The council brought in headhunter W.D. Higginbotham to conduct a national search after voting in April to fire longtime City Manager Tom Hurt. Three months before ousting Hurt, council members had unanimously approve a $37,000 pay raise, boosting his salary to $159,000 a year and making him one of the highest paid city managers in Central Florida.


Following that backlash, the council posted the new job with a salary range between $130,000 and $150,000. The posting indicates the city is looking for a manager who is highly experienced in growth management and community redevelopment and a "grasp/knowledge of economic development while maintaining historical preservation."

The finalists are:

  • Mark S. Ells, assistant town manager of Barnstable, Mass. He implemented the town's e-permitting system.
  • Robert G. Francis, former city manager of Hood River, Ore. He also served as Urban Renewal Administrator for the city, and boasted extensive experience with tax increment financing enterprise zone administration.
  • Joseph Helfenberger, city administrator of Ottumwa, Ia. He negotiated agreements with Dr. Pepper/Snapple that led to expansion and retention of 220 local jobs.

The St. Cloud Greater Osceola Chamber of Commerce has tentatively scheduled a meet-and-greet the evening of Oct. 7 at the community center. On Oct. 8, each candidate will meet one-on-one with all the city council members. The council will be able to ask follow up questions publicly during the regular meeting and could potentially vote that night to enter negotiations with the preferred candidate.

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