Though it is too early in the process for Cape Coral's new city manager to identify his administration's priorities, he knows that economic stability and professionalism in the workplace are key to the success of a government.
John Szerlag, 61, spent his first official week meeting city employees and elected officials, getting a handle on the city's processes and protocols, and learning his way around city facilities and the community that is now home.
"It's a very well run city by professional staff," Szerlag said Thursday.
Former Troy, Mich, city manager John Szerlag assumed the top administrative post in the city of Cape Coral this week.
"It's been very educational," the former city manager of Troy, Mich., added. "I plan on having a learning process for myself for two or three months."
Troy is a 35-square-mile city with a population of 85,000.
Szerlag served as the city manager of Troy from 1999 to 2006, and then from April 2009 until he accepted the Cape position. Before taking the head job in 1999, Szerlag served as Troy's assistant city manager for 10 years.
Asked what he brings to the table, Szerlag noted that he is the first Cape city manager in some time with experience and a history in the public sector.
He interned for Troy at 21, was city manager of Howell, Mich., and Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and was assistant to the city manager of Riverview, Mich. He has worked with eight mayors and 48 council members over the years.
One of Szerlag's notable accomplishments was implementing in Troy the rolling three-year budget. He explained that when a city looks at revenues over a longer time period, it can plan more accurately and avoid deficits.
The state of Michigan later adopted the same budgeting method.
Szerlag said it provides a government with "economic sustainability."
"You need to establish priorities," he said, adding that it is up to elected officials to determine what is of value to the community, such as services.
"To assure the municipality's going in the right direction," Szerlag said.
Under his management, Troy retained its AAA bond rating over the years.
"They're economically sustainable (for three years)," Szerlag said.
Asked what people should know about him, Szerlag explained that respect and professionalism in the workplace toward others is important to him.
"They'll always be treated professionally and fairly," he said of staff.
For Szerlag, residents and employees should be on the same page.
"I think all of us should have a shared objective," he said. "To have a safe community with quality-of-life amenities and good infrastructure."
A sense of community and increased property values does not hurt.
"We all want to have a great community in which to work," Szerlag said.
Szerlag has a master's degree in urban affairs from the University of Detroit and a bachelor's in administration from then Ferris State College.
He has been married for 39 years to Debbie, and they have two adult children, Stacie, and Jonathon, and one grandchild, 2-year-old Clint.