PUNTA GORDA — The city of Punta Gorda could be welcoming a new city manager in the coming months.
Current manager Howard Kunik has served the city since April 2005 and aims to retire in October.
The city manager serves as chief administrative officer of the city and is appointed by the city council.
At a recent special meeting, the city council named Gregory Murray of Maryland as their top choice of five candidates.
Murray and the city are currently negotiating a contract so nothing has been finalized yet. A progress update will be provided at today’s city council meeting.
“Punta Gorda is a beautiful town,” Murray said at the June 24 meeting. “The city of Punta Gorda just has so many opportunities and challenges, it’s something that excites me.”
The Sun reached out to Murray for comment but he chose to defer any comments until something more official is in place for his contract.
Murray worked in government for 35 years, most recently serving as county administrator for 10 years in Washington County, Maryland.
In 2017, he retired to pursue other opportunities, according to the resumé he provided to the city.
“In many cases, my job of county administrator was only secondary to the role I played in supporting the nine municipalities (in the county which ranged) from 400 people in the smallest one to 39,000 in the largest,” Murray said.
As of the 2010 Census, the Washington County population was listed at 147,430.
Punta Gorda’s current population is listed at 19,761, according to the city’s website.
“You can’t do the things the same way (in each community), but in our (county) we had (around) 150,000 residents and 100,000 of those were widely spread out,” Murray said. “We had challenges that went from the very rural to the very (compact such as the) 39,000 people in the city of Hagerstown.”
Murray said that different principles should be applied to different communities.
“We had to use certain principles that are common to all issues,” Murray continued, “but the answers and how to address their specific challenges were never the same.
“That’s one thing that made it exciting because you could actually work in the different venues and come up with different ideas and different solutions to help them address their challenges. It wasn’t a one-size-fits-all by any means.”
Murray said one thing that really impressed him about Punta Gorda was the level of involvement from the city’s community.
“I many times begged people when I had public hearings and presentations (to attend) and I’d look out and see 20 people in an audience and it always just struck me as a thing that you (as a resident) ought to be most interested in.
“This impacts you and where you live … your children and your families. If you have a question about the budget, don’t put it on Facebook, come to my office and we will talk about it.”
In the past, some Punta Gorda Council meetings have had attendance in the hundreds.
“We’ve had 700 people show up for a meeting (before),” said Mayor Nancy Prafke.
Punta Gorda’s contract with Murray is anticipated to be presented at the July 8 City Council meeting for council members to consider, according to City Communications Manager Melissa Reichert.
“The contract will contain the actual start date that may allow for some shadowing/overlap with (current City Manager) Howard Kunik for continuity purposes,” Reichert said.