MARATHON -- Mike Puto, whose nickname is "Mr. Marathon," was gung ho last Thursday about his new responsibilities as Marathon's interim city manager.
The Marathon City Council voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of Puto's appointment.
"I'm excited. It was a great day," Puto said, adding that he had received many calls of congratulations, support and best wishes.
In three hours, Roger Hernstadt, the departing city manager, and Puto went over the agenda for Tuesday's regularly scheduled council meeting and reviewed the capital projects Marathon is currently undertaking.
Puto said he is prepared to serve in the interim role for however long it takes to find a permanent manager, from 30 to 120 days, or more.
Puto said he expects a "nice transition" as Hernstadt prepares to depart for his new role as city manager of Marco Island, which begins Feb. 1.
Hernstadt is on leave from Marathon but available by phone. He filed a "personal option form" with Marathon's Human Resources Department rather than a resignation letter, according to City Clerk Diane Clavier.
In selecting Puto as interim manager, the council cited his prior experience as the city's community services director and as acting manager four years ago, prior to Hernstadt being hired from Miami-Dade County.
Several community members offered input at the Jan. 22 special meeting, and while they complimented both Puto and another applicant, C.J. Geotis of Marathon, it was Puto's experience that held more sway.
Mayor Dick Ramsay told the Free Press that he personally believes Puto's going to do a great job.
Looking ahead, Ramsay said he continues to welcome community input on what qualities to seek in a full-time city manager. He noted that many Marathon residents feel a person with Florida Keys experience or residency or, at least, small-town appreciation may be more suitable than someone hailing from a big city.
"We're a small, family-oriented town. A positive understanding of this may be best," Ramsay said.
The council is shying away from hiring a headhunting firm in its city manager search but is amenable to the idea of a recruiter who may meet with each council person and develop a list of desired qualities. The recruiter could create a list of individuals who are possible fits for those requirements, said Ramsay.
Ramsay said he wants to avoid repeating past mistakes when selecting a manager.
"We need someone who, if they are not from the Keys, is willing to learn what the Florida Keys are about rather than someone who is going to tell us what they think the Keys could be," he said.
The Marathon City Council meeting set for Tuesday, Jan. 28, was expected to clarify the next step in hiring a city manager.
The agenda contained proposals from four recruiting firms, ranging in costs from $13,825 to $24,000, which proposed taking from 10 to 16 weeks to reach the manager selection date.
The firms were Bob Murray and Associates of Tallahassee, Colin Baenziger Associates of Daytona Beach Shores, The Merger Group of Seminole and Slavin Management Consultants of Norcross, Ga.
The meeting took place after press time.