By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
LAKE HELEN - Kent Cichon got the job. At its last regular meeting, Oct. 11, the City Commission hired Mr. Cichon to be the new city administrator.
"Kent just rose above the other candidates," Mayor Buddy Snowden said in a phone interview after the meeting. "His personality and demeanor seemed like a good fit for Lake Helen."
City Administrator Don Findell announced his retirement in May. He's moved to Georgia, but continues to work for the city from there. Mr. Findell was Lake Helen's first administrator. He started the job not long after it was created in 2001. Before then Lake Helen had a city clerk who was essentially forced to act as an administrator, which frequently led to controversies.
The city received 56 applications for the job. Over time, the commission narrowed the prospect pool to 16, nine and finally six at a special meeting in August. Two of the six dropped out of the selection process.
The mayor said Mr. Cichon will start at $75,000 a year, along with benefits, such as health insurance and a city-provided car. His selection came after about 60 folks met with the four remaining city administrator candidates at Hopkins Hall on Monday, Oct. 8.
Mr. Cichon has been the budget supervisor for Alachua County's Office of Management and Budget since 2009. He was the city manager for Jasper from 2005 to 2008. In a 4-1 vote, the Jasper City Council fired him without explanation in August 2008. That was at a special meeting, according to the "Jasper News." That newspaper reported eight citizens spoke against the proposed termination and two for it.
In an unusual move for a city meeting, Mr. Cichon did the opening invocation at the special meeting in Jasper. It's highly unusual for city managers to offer prayers at city meetings. Afterward, Mayor Ann Lessman chided him for his approach to prayer, and Councilwoman Elaine Rozier performed a second invocation. Second invocations, too, are unusual.
At its recent meeting, Lake Helen Commissioner Ann Robins said after much talk she believed unusual circumstances were behind Mr. Cichon's firing in Jasper and that was evidence something was amiss. She also said he seemed to harbor no anger over it.
"I think that's a good sign," she said at the meeting. "He had no ill feeling. I think we all know it came down to politics, and he moved on."
Mr. Cichon wasn't available for comment by press time.