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South Jordan city manager Rick Horst, left, shakes hands with officials in Ocala, a city in north central Florida. Ocala City Council members chose Horst Tuesday to fill their vacant city manager position.

SOUTH JORDAN — City leaders here may soon have to start searching for a new city manager.

After almost nine years of working with South Jordan, City Manager Ricky Horst is considering moving to Florida to manage the city of Ocala. City Council members in Ocala Tuesday night unanimously chose Horst to fill their vacant city manager position.

Horst says he has not yet officially accepted the position, nor has he resigned as South Jordan's city manager, but he is negotiating a contract with Ocala. If the contract is acceptable, Horst says his departure will be a "foregone conclusion."

"It's a big decision so I want to give it some thought and some time," Horst said. "I really don't anticipate that there would be any issues (with negotiating a contract), but in the world of politics, you never know."

Horst came to South Jordan from Santa Clara in Washington County, but he is originally from Florida. National recruiters contacted Horst regarding the open position in Florida, and it intrigued him as an opportunity to move closer to his father, who lives near Ocala.

Horst says he's also interested in the chance to manage a larger city. According to 2006 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, South Jordan has about 44,000 residents. By the same estimates, Ocala has about 53,000 residents. Horst currently manages a city staff of about 400 with a city budget of about $70 million.

Ocala has about 1,200 city employees, with a budget of $356 million, Horst said. Ocala is located in north central Florida, about 80 miles north of Orlando.

"I've been very pleased with the opportunity here," Horst said. "I think the city has progressed dramatically because of people's hard work, but sometimes it's just time."

Horst says he'll make a decision within the next week or two. If he leaves, Horst says, he'll miss working with the mayor and council, who are "the best group of elected officials in the state of Utah." That sentiment is echoed by Mayor W. Kent Money, who said he hesitated to tell the Ocala council members how highly he thinks of Horst because he prefers the city manager to stay.

It's not clear how quickly Horst will leave the city if he chooses to move, but Money says he is confident the transition to a new city manager would be smooth.

"We will continue to go forward, and if Mr. Horst does leave, we will be ready to take what steps are necessary in order to fill that position, and as a city, I don't think we would miss a beat, although he will be greatly missed," Money said. "He's been an excellent city manager and he will be greatly missed."

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