Vignola Tapped for Margate Assistant City Manager Position

Larry Vignola

By: Sharon Aron Baron

A Coral Springs city commissioner may become the next assistant city manager of Margate. 

The City of Margate is on the search for a new assistant city manager, however, it may just be a formality as they already have their front-runner:  Coral Springs City Commissioner Larry Vignola.

After 31 years, Margate City Manager Samuel May will retire and Assistant City Manager Curtis Cale will become interim city manager.  On Wednesday, the commission will vote whether to hire Vignola, or any of the other 28 candidates who applied for the position.

At a commission meeting April 17, Vice Mayor Tommy Ruzzano recalled when May announced his retirement, that he received many phone calls about the assistant city manager position.

“One phone call I did receive was from an elected official from another city. His name is Larry Vignola.  He was definitely interested in coming to the city. I spoke to him and just feeling him out and I really liked what he said and wanting to come to the city.”

Vignola said it was members of the commission who contacted him about the position. 

“They asked me if this is something I’d be interested in doing.” 

Vice Mayor Ruzzano said he would like to see Cale become interim city manager and wanted the others speak to Vignola and mentioned Vignola came across to him as someone with vast experience with good connections throughout the county.

“I think he would work great with Cale. I think they would be a great team. One’s a number’s guy, another is an operations guy,” said Ruzzano.

Vignola, a graduate of the University of Miami with a double major in broadcast journalism and psychology, has been a city commissioner in Coral Springs since 2010.  He also works as the director of business development for the Berman Law Group where he helps expand their client base.

Although, his city commission term expires in 2020, he would not be required to step down from his seat in order to work as an assistant city manager. However, he cannot be made acting city manager during Cale’s absence.

The three members of the commission were prepared to hire Vignola at the last meeting, but they ran in to roadblock: according to Florida Statutes, when one city seeks to hire an elected official from another city, the position must be advertised by posting on bulletin boards at city hall and the city website.

The only way they could then “legally” hire Vignola, was to post the open position.

After one week, the city received the applications which included: Tracey Anthony, a resident of Margate who has a master’s degree in public administration and is an assistant to the city manager in Miami Gardens. She is also a member of the ICMA – an association of professional city and county managers and other employees; Angela Montgomery – former assistant manager of Alachua County who helped provide oversight to 431 employees; Lisa Castillo who was chief of staff for the Broward Sheriff’s Office, until Governor DeSantis removed Israel from office: Steven Tinsley, economic development manager for the Broward County Board of County Commissioners: Ismael Diaz, chief financial officer for the Town of Miami Lakes, overseeing a budget of $42 million; and Kim Creamer, administrative services manager for Florida Atlantic University.

At Monday’s city commission workshop, Commissioner Joanne Simone said her recommendation would be to toss the applications out.

“I’ve looked at them and in my opinion there is not one that is qualified to be the CEO of a $135 million dollar company They don’t have the credentials. They don’t have the background to do this.  We did not advertise properly… I think we are looking to get a top person in this city and it’s been said, ‘why do we always settle for less?’  I think with these applicants we’d be settling for less than what we deserve.”

She added the city needs to advertise the position in an appropriate way in professional publications such as the Florida League of Cities and ICMA to get a top assistant city manager.

“So I’d like to throw all these out and publish this properly because in my opinion it was not published properly to get the best applicants.”

Commissioner Antonio Arserio said that he felt the opposite, and after interviewing several people, he still believed Vignola was the most qualified for the position. He wanted to move forward since May retired on June 14, and the city needed to make drastic changes.

“My whole take on this from the beginning was this sense of urgency to get the position filled,” he said.

Commissioner Simone disagreed and said that the whole thing was orchestrated and she didn’t like how it was done. 

“I don’t know who we’re doing a favor to. Who we thank for possibly embarrassing Larry, but Larry is not qualified. He’s a nice guy. He’s a good commissioner, I respect his intelligence.  This is not personal.  If you look at his application, he has no degree in administration; no degree in management. This is not about who we like on a personal level, it’s who can do the job and why are we putting an unqualified person in a top position. Can he formulate a budget?  From what I saw, he’s taken no courses to become a city manager yet in the interview, this has been an aspiration for him.”

Vice Mayor Ruzzano said that it wasn’t so much as what you have on paper, it was more about the experience and the one-on-one time you have with that person.

Mayor Caggiano’s concern was that their interim city manager have someone behind him that he could depend on.

Commissioner Schwartz replied, “If you don’t feel Mr. Curtis can stand on his own two feet now with the people that we have as department heads, then we have a problem to start with.”

On Wednesday, the Margate City Commission voted 4 to 1 to hire Vignola.