PLANT CITY – David Sollenberger said he never dreamed he'd be back behind the city manager's desk after he retired in 2010.
The 77-year-old was happy in retirement – traveling to visit his adult son and daughter who live on opposite sides of the country and doing all those fun things he'd postponed during his working years.
Then City Manager Greg Horwedel took a job in late March as deputy county administrator. And Sollenberger was offered the chance to come back.
“It was very flattering because you don't give a person the chance to return if he wasn't doing a decent job,” he said.
Sollenberger ran the idea of taking the interim job past his wife of 55 years, Alise. She was in agreement that he should return to City Hall.
His first few days back felt like a homecoming.
“It was kind of like old times in a way. I get to work with the same group of people,” he said.
The only difficulty so far: learning the city's new computer system.
“It's a bit foreign to me but I'll catch on to it. But it's a bit of a challenge,” he said.
City commissioners are hiring a consulting firm to conduct a nationwide search for a permanent city manager; Sollenberger said there's no way he would accept staying longer than a few months.
His contract calls for him to receive $2,500 per week for three to six months. He hopes commissioners hire a permanent replacement for Horwedel sooner than later, but he said he won't be biding his time.
Sollenberger has set an ambitious agenda for however long his tenure lasts. Tasks on his list range from completion of Ellis-Methvin Park to overseeing progress in the redevelopment of the midtown area south of downtown.
He'll also be the one who helps pick a new police chief to replace Steve Singletary, who was fired in January, and a new human resources director to replace Sanders Bush, who is retiring.
During his watch, he also wants to give employees who don't work for the police and fire departments their first base salary raises in five years. Those employees have received one-time bonuses, but nothing added to their base salaries.
The city has raised base salaries for public safety employees to make the jobs more competitive with other law enforcement and firefighting agencies in the area. The other employees are long overdue for hikes in their base salaries, he said.
City Commissioner Mike Sparkman said he thinks the commissioners made the best possible choice for picking someone to guide the city in the interim. Sollenberger has a lifetime of municipal government experience, including eight years at the helm in Plant City, Sparkman said.
“He has the leadership skills we needed at this time. He has the respect of everyone, and I look forward to working with him over the next few months,” he said.