Barwin named new city manager

City manager candidates and consultant Colin Baenziger appear before the City Commission on July 2, when the commission failed to select a new manager. Photo by Norman Schimmel

Sarasota appears to have a new city manager as of today, July 16. His name is Thomas Barwin.

Contractual details have yet to be hammered out, but the commission voted unanimously to ask him to serve. A special commission meeting tentatively has been set for July 30 to approve the contract.

So who is this 57-year-old guy? He can use the job. A background check by the headhunter firm that found him for the city — Colin Baenziger and Associates of Wellington, Fla. — indicates his credit is “recovering, due to school tuition for four children simultaneously and excessive credit card debt.”

You can’t accuse him of driving a flashy car. He’s the proud owner of a paid-off 2006 blue Chrysler minivan with 160,000 miles on the clock.

His compensation package will probably be similar to what he earned as the village manager of Oak Park, Ill., in the $150,000 to $160,000 range. Barwin quit that job Feb. 21 after a five-year run, and people have been staying mum about why.

The weekly newspaper Oak Leaves announced, “Barwin quits,” by saying “Village officials refused to explain why Oak Park’s village manager for five years has resigned.”

Barwin told reporter Bill Dwyer, “We have just finished a year during which we fought record snowstorms, improved our financial picture by increasing our fund balance, saw our services rated very highly by our residents, saved our residents $4.5 million and saw crime reduced to a 39-year low.”

The former Oak Park village manager was involved in several sustainability efforts, including negotiation of a contract lowering the residential cost of electricity per kilowatt hour by almost 2 cents, from 7.73 cents with Commonwealth Edison to 5.87 cents with the Integrys Energy Group.

Last year, Barwin was appointed to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, continuing his long-standing interest in policing that began in 1976 with his study of “comparative criminal justice studies” at the University of London, England.

Sarasota has international connections, too, with sister cities in Scotland, Mexico, Russia, Israel, France and other nations. Barwin should fit right in, as he has been a YMCA World Ambassador to India, Sri Lanka and the former Soviet Union. Last year, he went on a municipal cultural exchange to China and a humanitarian mission to Nigeria.

Barwin will take the reins from Interim City Manager Terry Lewis, who precipitated the July 16 decision by saying he was pulling out in early August. Commissioners two weeks ago refused to select a city manager; Barwin got two votes, but it takes four under the city’s charter.