The Ocala City Council has delayed the hiring of a new city manager until the open District 2 seat is filled.
Council President Jay Musleh made the suggestion during this past Tuesday’s Council meeting, which because of the COVID-19 outbreak was held on an online platform with all of the councilmembers and staff members located in different locations.
Councilmembers Matthew Wardell and Brent Malever agreed with the plan, which means the city manager won’t be appointed until at least June 2. President Pro-Tem Justin Grabelle voted against it, saying he wanted the position vacated by John Zobler in December to be filled sooner than later.
A runoff election to fill the District 2 seat vacated by longtime Councilmember Mary Sue Rich is scheduled for May 19. The City Council has instructed Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox to request state approval for that election to be held strictly by mail because of the Coronavirus.
The upcoming election will be the fourth attempt to fill the District 2 seat. It will pit Ire Bethea Sr. against Lonnie Hooks III. They were the top vote-getters in the March 17 election but neither one achieved the needed 50 percent plus one to win the seat.
The candidate who initially won the vacated seat, Tyrone Eugene Oliver Jr., was disqualified because he is a convicted felon. The City Council refused to seat him in December and called for the special election to fill the vacant seat.
The Council has twice delayed the hiring of a new city manager, first in February and against last month. At the February meeting the four Councilmembers were split on their choices to fill the job. The three candidates vying for the position are Interim City Manager Sandra Wilson, Assistant City Manager Bill Kauffman and Ocala Fire Rescue Chief Shane Alexander.