In another sign of challenging times for government in Pasco County, the city of New Port Richey decided last week to hit the reset button on its increasingly lengthy search for a city manager. A three-member advisory group — former Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher, former Pasco Superintendent of Schools Heather Fiorentino and former City Councilman Rob Marlowe — sent, apparently with little enthusiasm, a list of three city manager finalists to the city council. The next evening, council members read the list and yawned and asked Human Resources Director Lindy Thomas to again seek applicants for the city manager’s job. About a year ago, then-City Manager John Schneiger let it be known he wanted to quit. Schneiger, while heading out the door, never bothered to stop long enough to refute suggestions he was buckling under the strain of the city’s financial problems. Meanwhile, the Port Richey City Council rejected City Manager Tom O’Neill’s offer to retire after the Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney’s Office in late August charged him with DUI. Reading between the lines, it appeared the four council members who wanted to keep O’Neill weren’t sure they would be happy with anyone they might attract to replace him.
County commissioners, after their top choice to replace the retired Gallagher decided he would rather stay a city manager in Texas, decided to give the job to Gallagher’s former chief assistant, Michele Baker, as Gallagher had wanted. Maybe instead of embarking on another hunt, New Port Richey should make Library Director Susan Dillinger, the interim city manager, Schneiger’s replacement — even if she doesn’t want the job.