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In Bunnell Manager Interviews, a Commissioner Makes His Choice With 3 Candidates Yet To Go

| June 13, 2018

Manager candidate Alvin Jackson had laid out copies of his self-published book, 'It Is Another Great Day,' before his interview Tuesday, and distributed copies to commissioners. He spoke with Commissioners Bill Baxley, left, and Elbert Tucker. (© FlaglerLive)

Manager candidate Alvin Jackson had laid out copies of his self-published book, ‘It Is Another Great Day,’ before his interview Tuesday, and distributed copies to commissioners. He spoke with Commissioners Bill Baxley, left, and Elbert Tucker. (© FlaglerLive)

The Bunnell City Commission interviewed the first two of five candidates for city manager Tuesday evening, and for at least one commissioner, the rest of the interviews, scheduled for next Monday, are unnecessary: in a move that breaks with protocol, Commissioner John Rogers announced his choice to one of the candidates, during the interview.

“I’d hire you right now if it was up to me,” Rogers told Alvin Jackson, the economic development director in Suwanee County who maintains a permanent home in Boynton Beach.

Earlier the commission had interviewed R. Scott Tipton, a retired Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator looking to redirect his career toward public administration. The only reason he’d been shortlisted was because Rogers had wanted him interviewed. But while one candidate dropped out ahead of Tuesday’s interviews–John Klimm, who’d been picked by Mayor Catherine Robinson–there are still three more candidates slated for interviews next Monday, assuming Rogers’s declaration hasn’t muddied the way: Lyndon Bonner (a former Bunnell manager), Martin Murphy and Brian Watkins.

Tuesday’s interviews were a study in contrasts.

Tipton has never held a job other than in law enforcement, and many of the questions commissioners posed required him to rifle through his notes, take long pauses, or simply say he knows what he doesn’t know. That included questions about running a city budget or any official budget, impact fees and a possible increase in the homestead exemption, issues central to running a city. He was on stronger ground when discussing his master’s thesis (about evaluating employees) or playing a key role in the implementation of video cams for troopers. “I never received one bit of recognition for it,” he said, even though securing the cameras “was because of me.”

R. Scott Tipton. (© FlaglerLive)

R. Scott Tipton. (© FlaglerLive)

Tipton was clearly nervous and hesitant at various points. When faced with a difficult question on the job he said he’d research the issue, study peer-reviewed journal articles, and present his analysis to commissioners, letting them make decisions. “I’m here to make you happy, I’m here to give you what you want,” Tipton said, “that’s the way I conduct myself. I’m not here to be, to operate alone and do things I want to do when I want to do them. I’m keenly aware that this is a team effort and I’m part of a team.”

Jackson in contrast sat back in his chair, his atms on the table or often gesturing, his demeanor even more relaxed than the commissioners’, and his answers quickly taking the tone of an irresistible Disney Vacation Club salesman who makes everything sound not just achievable but exceedable. This from a candidate who’s never actually managed a city, according to his resume, which lists a town manager job as his first job on the resume, but without a date. He was a deputy county manager in Lake County for five years and deputy executive director of the South Florida Water Management District for four, with consulting, “leadership” and economic development stints along the way. He’s been the economic development director in Suwanee County since 2014, living out of the county even though his contract required him to live in county within six months of taking the job.

Jackson–who lists Flagler County’s government’s Sally Sherman as one of his three references–says he and his wife are relocating to Palm Coast regardless of his fortunes with Bunnell. By the end of his 90-minute interview, even Jackson spoke as if the hire was a formality: “I’m excited, I’m really excited about becoming a part of this community, becoming a part of this team.”

john rogers

John Rogers. (© FlaglerLive)

Other commissioners were more reserved: Commissioner John Sowell had read Jackson’s self-published book previously and termed it “a great read” (Jackson distributed copies of his book to the commissioners just before the interview started), and Ebert Tucker told Jackson he was “impressed” with his performance.

But neither they nor their other colleagues–Robinson and Commissioner Bill Baxley–ventured further than just asking questions, at least when they could: Jackson managed to control the interview more than commissioners did, speaking in long, preachy blocks of time, one of them approaching 10 minutes, perhaps a reflection of other job as an active pastor in Tampa. (The Bunnell job requires a master’s degree. Jackson has one, as well as a doctorate, but from an obscure bible college in Jacksonville, credentials that caused two Suwanee County commissioners to vote against his hire at his last job over doubts about the degrees’ validity.)

Jackson projected command of various municipal issues, relying on personal experiences as examples and describing himself as an eternal optimist. To the frequent question about evaluating his own weakness, he answered: “managing my optimism.”

“My whole objective is to make a difference in the community, help transform the community where individuals will begin to experience equal and higher quality of living,” he said. To do so, he repeatedly invoked being “strategic” (““Is your pothole really that important compared to something else? Can you wait? Can you wait two years, and start compromising?”), being a “team player,” showing “leadership” (a term he never quite defined beyond describing himself as a champion of retreats to build teamwork and loyalty).

Alvin Jackson. (© FlaglerLive)

Alvin Jackson. (© FlaglerLive)

He was also unhesitant to speak of the political roles he’d urge his commissioners to play in certain circumstances, whether it’s being visible in Tallahassee or pushing local landowners to sell parcels for an economic development project. He’d been asked what he’d do with Bunnell’s 84 million acres. “Unless you want to sell the land, I can’t move it,” Jackson said, sounding like a real estate broker. That’s where elected officials come in, he suggested: “You have the influence, you have the political influence, you have the individual influence with some of these landowners, and that’s where we need you working to help us convince them to go to the next step on these lands.”

Toward the end of the interview, Jackson asked commissioners questions, among them how they expected to measure his success.
“In 30 years this city has gone from one traffic light to two,” Baxley said. ‘It needs to be cleaned up, it needs to be some changes made, I’d like to drive through here in five years and say man, I don’t recognize any of this.”

Sowell said he was looking for a “wow” moment in Bunnell, one similar to what he’d previously experienced in parts of his native Alabama, which he;d found unrecognizable because of development. But that prompted the mayor to apply some brakes. “I don’t want to lose the integrity of our city, I don’t want to lose who we are and what we are about, to progress. Progress is a double-edged sword,” Robinson said.

Commissioners are looking for a new manager following the April firing of Dan Davis. Tom Foster, the police chief, is the acting manager meanwhile. Commissioners will interview Watkins, Bonner and Murphy in scheduled one-hour increments starting at 6 p.m. at City Hall on June 18. The interviews are open to the public.

Commissioners' Short-List Choices For Bunnell City Manager

Bill Baxley
Catherine Robinson
John Rogers
John Sowell
Elbert Tucker
Brian Watkins
Lyndon Bonner
Alvin Jackson
John Klimm
Martin Murphy
R. Scott Tipton
Click on each applicant's name to see the full application package. See all 18 application packages as provided by Bunnell administration in two files, here and here.
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13 Responses for “In Bunnell Manager Interviews, a Commissioner Makes His Choice With 3 Candidates Yet To Go”

  1. fiscal says:

    Seriously? NO experience in a real business, how to manage a budget, set tax rates, oversee projects.

    Real good candidate..

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s pretty bad when ex managers make the short list! Jackson may have put on a good performance but that does not qualify him. The city commissioners better hope the remaining 2 candidates (not counting the has been) has more to offer. Heck, why not make Daisy Henry manager and be done with it.

  3. Dave says:

    So unprofessional, its remarkable how some people choose to conduct themselves. God bless Catherine for sticking up for the integrity of Bunnell. I dont know anyone who wants our city to be in unrecognizable in 5 years, that’s a ridiculous comment and completely out of touch from the community.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Lose the integrity of the City? The City will never gain any integrity until the majority of the Commissioners are replaced. The city will never advance under that lack of leadership. It is an unfortunate curse to the people of Bunnell to continue to be led by small minded at best, corrupted at worst, group of individuals.

  5. can'tfoolme says:

    Sorry, but if Alvin Jackson is endorsed by Sally Sherman, lived out of the county in which he served as economic director even though his contract stated he must reside in the county, and was passed over for past employment because his Doctorate degree is dubious, and has plans to make Bunnell unrecognizable……all this while dominating the interview with “I”, “I”, “I”, the Commissioners should be very wary!!! Sounds like another Landon or Coffey to me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m afraid Rogers has picked this Man Jackson because of his race. Some white people go to extremes to show they are not the conventional type of racist who do everything in their power to oppress Blacks. These people will sometimes discriminate against their own color to prove to the world and themselves they are not racist. Just look at the Racheal Dolezal the former Washington State NAACP President that was a white woman pretending to be black. I’m worried this may be the case with Commissioner Rogers. He has a Black girl friend or wife I’m told and by picking Jackson before even interveiwing the other two candidates shows something is definitely amiss. This definitely shows he is not using fair hiring practices for some reason. White, Black or Purple with pink stripes it does not matter, the most qualified person should get the job.

  7. David A Still says:

    Having known Alvin for about 20 years, he is the right candidate, no matter what the uninformed say. He is a professional and will serve and I mean serve the community well. True professional!!!!

  8. R. Scott Tipton says:

    With all due respect to @doyourresearch, a charging document (investigation) does not provide the entirety of the issue at hand. It provides the organizations view that is sometimes skewed in one direction. Certainly, one can understand that, if an agency/organization wants to fire someone, they will do their best to slant an investigation their way in order to influence the arbitrator/perc hearing officer to decide in their favor. With that said, instead of posting a document that favors the agency and calling names, one should research the entire case that includes the arbitration (which is inclusive of sworn testimony of all involved parties) and the arbitrators findings. Then, and only then, will one have a true understanding of the issue at hand. I do not appreciate being ambushed on the internet, nor do I approve of name calling. I contend that I did do something wrong, I admitted to it, I apologized for it, and I was disciplined for it. After the incident, I had two choices: get bitter, or get better. I chose the latter; I continued with my career, retired in good standing, earned two (2) degrees, and lived my life the best that I could. Now, I want to use my education and experience to enable the mayor/commissioners to make the best possible decisions for the city of Bunnell. It is their decision to make whether, or not, to hire me. It is my hope that they will; however, that may not be the case. @do your research, I would ask you to be respectful and comprehensive in your comments and research. In closing, I realize as a public servant that my life is public record as it should be. I would hope for compassion and understanding regarding this difficult period in my life.

  9. Dave says:

    When I speak of Bunnells integrity, I speak of it’s small town feel, its exclusion from big corporations and fast food places, what makes Bunnell great is it’s small town feel and how they stand up for the lil people, keep change out of Bunnell. And for the record ,Catherine Robinson is a saint and deserves to be honored by our city. If you want to fix something, fix out Police Department, full of corruption and hypocrisy.

  10. I Be Erudite says:

    @Anonymous, congratulations you must be the most racist person in all of Flagler County. Who Mr Rogers lives is no ones business. I am sure the City will select a well qualified manager regardless of race.

  11. Anonymous says:

    To: I Be Erudite, I was merely making an observation. You see, I’m a Black woman and proud of it. Fair is Fair, and what Mr. Rogers did was not fair to the last two candidates yet to be interviewed by the commission. I’m proud of my Black Heritage and how far we as a people have come in this great nation, but we did not get where we are because some old white guy wanted to give a Black Man a job to prove he is not a racist. We had to march and protest and at times under threat of great bodily harm. Mr. “I Be Erudite” don’t patronize me or what I said until you have walked a mile in our shoes!

  12. I Be Erudite says:

    To Anonymous, my remark was not directed towards his action of naming his choice before all the interviews were conducted. It was directed towards your criticism of who he dates. I seriously doubt he would date a black woman just to score some sort of political point. This is who he loves and it is his business. You need not mention his personal life to make a policy point.

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