Council to decide whether city manager must live in town


Back in the days when Charles Theofan was city manager of Long Beach — the early and mid 2000s — he lived in Freeport, and earned the nickname “Freeport Charlie.”

Perhaps Long Beach no longer wants to allow such an arrangement for its city manager. A replacement for former City Manager Donna Gayden, who resigned in January after almost three years in the job, has yet to be chosen. Gayden was a city resident.

Earlier this month, the City Council hired a search firm to help it find a new city manager. It contracted with Pracademic Partners LLC, of Livonia, “for an initial 30 days at a cost not to exceed $5,000.” Ron Walsh, Long Beach’s police commissioner, has been acting city manager since Gayden left. He lives in Freeport.

On Tuesday night, the council voted to hold a public hearing in the next few weeks on whether to require the new executive to live within 15 miles of Long Beach or the County of Nassau, or to move to the area within 90 days of being hired.

Gayden, a Midwesterner, moved to Long Beach when she was hired. Several acting city managers, however, have not lived in Long Beach. Jack Schnirman, who held the job from 2012 to 2018, rented an apartment in the city before buying a home. He was elected Nassau County comptroller in 2017, was involved in a payment scandal with Long Beach employees, and decided not to seek re-election in 2012. He has since left town.

Theofan was city manager twice, in 2004-05 and again from 2008 to 2011. He went on to become a deputy Nassau County executive, and died in 2014, at age 61.

In 2012, the City Council voted to require Long Beach began the city manager to live in the city. All city employees are required to live within 50 miles of Long Beach. The new regulation for the city manager, if approved, would be less restrictive.

Council members — and residents — are unlikely to unanimously agree on one requirement or another. Harvey Weisenberg, 89, a former Assembly member, City Council president, Long Beach police officer and teacher who is known to many as “Mr. Long Beach,” said the city manager should live in the city. 

“Long Beach is my home,” Weisenberg said. “The city is my life. The people who work for the city are my family. This is a job for someone who lives here.”

But council member Roy Lester, also a longtime resident, disagreed. He said he would not ask members of his Long Beach law firm to live in the city. Times, he said, have changed, and where someone lives makes little difference.

“My worry is that if you make it a condition of the job, a qualified person may not take it,” Lester said. A city manager, he added, may want more privacy than living in Long Beach would afford.

Long Beach police officers are not required to live in the city. Walsh, who helps formulate the agenda for council meetings but does not vote, said he was asked to put the item on the agenda, to announce that a hearing will be held.

Personally, Walsh said, he doesn’t believe it should be mandatory for a city manager to live in Long Beach. “As long as someone can get here within a reasonable amount of time, that’s all that should be required,” he said.