After nearly two hours of interviewing five candidates to replace retiring Town Manager Jamie Titcomb, the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council unanimously chose Assistant Village Manager Francine Ramaglia as its top choice to replace Titcomb on Tuesday, June 21.
Town Attorney Elizabeth Lenihan has begun contract negotiations with Ramaglia, who is already serving as interim town manager. An agreement is expected to be in place soon and could be finalized at the Tuesday, July 5 council meeting.
At the meeting, the council interviewed the finalists one by one with Lenihan overseeing the process. There were supposed to be seven finalists, but two did not show up.
“I want to welcome our candidates and tell them that we appreciate all the time it takes to submit their qualifications and participate in the interview process,” Lenihan said.
To keep the process moving smoothly, the candidates were limited to three-minute opening statements, followed by two questions posed by each council member. Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia opted out of the questioning process. Each interview lasted approximately 20 minutes.
The candidates were interviewed in alphabetical order, and aside from Ramaglia, also included: Mark Kutney, who has direct experience with the town, having served as town manager from 2011 to 2014 during the previous contract with Underwood Management Services Group; Lynn Ladner, who has experience in small, local governments of agricultural communities; Larry Tibbs, a resident of the Acreage/Loxahatchee area who is currently the manager of the City of Moore Haven; and Chandler Williamson, the former manager of the City of Pahokee.
Ramaglia, who joined the Loxahatchee Groves staff in 2018, previously worked as an assistant village manager in Wellington.
“The reason I originally came here was to help consolidate two governments that had longstanding differences,” she said, referring to the merger of the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District with the Town of Loxahatchee Groves. “We have come a long way, but we still have more things to do.”
She said she has enjoyed her time with the community and wishes to continue to serve the town.
“I had the good fortune of growing up in the western communities, and I am familiar with the importance of keeping the rural character of this community,” Ramaglia said. “I do definitely understand the equestrian community, and also the agricultural community.”
Ramaglia added that she is a certified planner, a certified public accountant and a certified manager.
Vice Mayor Laura Danowski asked Ramaglia to define “government light,” which is the term the town has used since incorporation to describe its local government.
Ramaglia said it is all about not being “pennywise and pound foolish.”
“I think contract management is the key with government light,” she said. “I’m committed to analyzing what we should keep in house because it is more efficient and effective, and agree that we need to contract certain things out, and manage those contracts better.”
Mayor Robert Shorr asked what Ramaglia would do if stopped by a resident to report a neighbor’s code violation.
“I would always listen to the resident, however, I’m the wrong person to do code enforcement,” she said. “I cannot get involved in it. However, I can lead them to who can help them. Listening is always the first thing to do with any resident, or any person who has a concern.”
Councilwoman Marianne Miles asked how Ramaglia would handle a pro-active approach to items the council sets as a priority when it comes to the budget.
“Where we are right now is working through our priorities,” Ramaglia said. “We came forward with a paving plan last year, and one of the things we are doing right now is revising that paving plan to include the necessary elements of drainage. Now that we have a paving plan, how do we do it better?”
Councilwoman Marge Herzog asked how Ramaglia would react to a council member overstepping their authority.
“Council people are very passionate about the public service that they are giving back to the community. Many times, they do not know what they can and cannot do,” she said. “I think it all comes back to training.”
After all the interviews, the council reconvened to consider their choices. Lenihan gave them several options on how to proceed. The council agreed that each member should name their first choice for the job and see where that left them.
It didn’t take long for the choice to become clear, since Ramaglia was the top choice for all five council members.
Maniglia then made a motion to offer the position to Ramaglia, pending agreement to a negotiated contract. The motion passed unanimously.