Three internal candidates have announced their desires to become Ocala’s next city manager.

Interim City Manager Sandra Wilson, Assistant City Manager Bill Kauffman and Ocala Fire Rescue Chief Shane Alexander all have expressed interest in becoming Ocala’s next city manager.

Interim City Manager Sandra Wilson, Assistant City Manager Bill Kauffman and Ocala Fire Rescue Chief Shane Alexander all have expressed an interest in replacing John Zobler, who abruptly resigned in December after serving almost five years as the city’s top administrator. City Council members made the decision in January to first seek internal candidates before considering a costly nationwide search.

The four City Council members – President Jay Musleh, President Pro-Tem Justin Grabelle, Matthew Wardell and Brent Malever – started conducting individual interviews with the three candidates on Thursday. Those will continue through Tuesday, Feb. 11, with the councilmembers likely to discuss their thoughts during the next regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 18.

At this past Tuesday’s Council meeting, Musleh said he would poll each council member to get their thoughts and if they feel strongly about a candidate, discussions would begin that could lead to an immediate hire. If not, he said, councilmembers would bring the candidates in for a question-and-answer session at a later date. And if the Council can’t agree on hiring an internal candidate, a nationwide search could be launched.

Here’s a closer look at the three candidates:

  • Wilson became the deputy city manager in December 2014 and was appointed to fill in as interim city manager in January. She currently oversees Human Resources/Risk Management, Electric Administration, Electric Delivery, Water Resources, Engineering and Fleet Management and has more than 30 years of municipal government service. Prior to joining the city 2000 as human resources director, she worked for the cities of Eustis, Lady Lake and Lauderdale Lakes.
  • Kauffman became an assistant city manager in August 2015 and is responsible for the operations of Finance, Budget, Procurement, Information Technology, Telecommunications, Utility Billing/Customer Service and Legislative Affairs. He has more than 25 years of executive leadership and fiscal advising experience and his previous experience with Marion County government includes serving as interim county administrator, assistant county administrator and budget administrator. Prior to joining the government sector in 2008, Kauffman worked as a chief financial officer, reimbursement manager, administrator and director of operations for two Florida healthcare organizations.
  • Alexander, a second-generation Ocala firefighter, became chief of Ocala Fire Rescue in 2018. He joined the department in 1994 as a firefighter paramedic and worked his way up to the positions of station captain and battalion chief in 2007. He also has served as the Firefighting Program Coordinator for the Florida State Fire College since 2004.