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Miami Beach appoints interim city manager, plans national search as mayor blasts process

Miami Herald
Assistant City Manager Rickelle Williams was appointed as the interim city manager of Miami Beach on Wednesday, as the City Commission agreed to conduct a national search for a permanent successor to City Manager Alina Hudak over the objections of Mayor Steven Meiner.

Williams, 38, previously served as the economic development director, joining the city in September 2020. She will begin in the interim manager role Thursday.

Hudak will stay on in an advisory role until June 26, serving out a 90-day notice requirement after she announced her resignation last week.

Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who proposed that Williams be selected for the interim role, said she has been “blown away” by Williams during her tenure with the city.

“I’m proud to have another female city manager, and I know she’s going to do a great job,” Rosen Gonzalez said.

READ MORE: Jamaica native leads push to lure companies to Miami Beach as city’s top corporate booster

Rosen Gonzalez said she believed the interim manager should agree not to apply for the permanent position during the upcoming national search, saying it would create “an unfair playing field.” Williams agreed to that term, as did most of the City Commission, despite concerns from some officials who said Williams should be allowed to apply.

After the vote, Rosen Gonzalez told reporters the city could later change course.

“We make the rules, and we could possibly change the rules,” she said.

Following a roller-coaster conversation about the succession plan for the city’s top administrator, the commission voted 6-1 to appoint Williams and pursue a search to take no longer than six months.

The lone “no” vote was the mayor, who started Wednesday’s discussion by calling for the appointment of Deputy City Manager Eric Carpenter as the permanent city manager without a national search. Meiner argued that, amid an exodus of several high-ranking department heads in recent months, Carpenter would provide much-needed stability.

“Quite frankly, I’m concerned that if we don’t [appoint Carpenter] today, we could potentially destabilize our government,” Meiner said. “You’ll look back on this day a year from now, and our residents will tell us whether it’s a colossal failure of government.”

Meiner and two commissioners, Joseph Magazine and David Suarez, said they supported the appointment of Carpenter as the next manager. But their colleagues — Rosen Gonzalez, Tanya Katzoff Bhatt, Laura Dominguez and Alex Fernandez — said they felt a national search was the way to go.

“We would be remiss in defaulting to what is known and comfortable without putting together a national search,” Katzoff Bhatt said.

During Wednesday’s discussion, Suarez floated another assistant city manager, Mark Taxis, as an option for the interim manager role to give Williams the option to apply for the permanent position. Taxis said he wasn’t interested in applying for the permanent role but would be willing to take the interim job.

Suarez and Meiner subsequently proposed a deferral of the interim appointment to next month’s meeting, but their colleagues voted against it.

Williams was born in Mandeville, Jamaica, and moved to Miami at age 6. She earned a master’s degree in public administration at Florida International University and, before coming to Miami Beach, worked as the capital improvement projects coordinator for the city of Miami Gardens, the economic development manager for the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust, and executive director of the Dania Beach Community Redevelopment Agency.

The details of Williams’ salary and other contract provisions for her new role have not yet been determined.

Hudak, a former Miami-Dade County deputy mayor who served three years as Miami Beach city manager, will advise Williams during the upcoming transition period.

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