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Help Wanted: Flagler County Seeking Interim Manager and Hoping to Stave Off Exodus

| January 14, 2019

Sally Sherman, the deputy county administrator, sat with county commissioners during a special meeting this morning. Commissioners opted not to sit on the dais. (© FlaglerLive)

Sally Sherman, the deputy county administrator, sat with county commissioners during a special meeting this morning. Commissioners opted not to sit on the dais. (© FlaglerLive)

Craig Coffey was gone, drama was gone, the audience was gone when the Flagler County Commission met in special session this morning to figure out who would be its interim administrator, and who would be its interim-interim while it searches for an interim.

Normally, its interim would be Sally Sherman, the deputy county administrator. But Sherman tendered her resignation, effective Jan. 31, last week, at the same time that Coffey, the county administrator, announced he would resign. Joe Mayer, the human resources director, is also leaving on Jan. 31. That eliminated Sherman as an interim possibility.

But the county is required to have an administrative executive regardless. Coffey appears to have taken care of that in his last act as administrator: he designated Sherman as having all his powers, without designating her interim manager. The commission this morning ratified the decision. It didn’t have much choice: only two people left in the administration, Sherman and Lori Bailey Brown, who heads the finance department, have the authority to sign official financial documents.

The commission also asked Sherman to start soliciting organizations such as the Range Riders and the Florida Association of Counties for an interim manager who could serve for several months until the commission chooses a permanent replacement for Coffey. The Range Riders is an association of retired county and city managers who are the equivalent of AAA, bailing out local governments with temporary leadership from their ranks.

Commission Chairman Don O’Brien said he would “coordinate” the search for an interim with fellow commissioners Greg Hansen and Dave Sullivan. “Some of that stuff we can do offline,” O’Brien said, though the commissioners did not make clear how they would do so outside of meetings: by law, they are not allowed to take part in coordinated work that would be part of an eventual decision by the commission, except in open meetings. That includes, for example, the short-listing of batches of resumes outside of a meeting. They have agreed to meet again on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 3 p.m., for an update.

Meanwhile, the commission wants to put out the word: it needs an interim. It is encouraging anyone interested in the position locally to apply through O’Brien, by email (

Sally Sherman. (© FlaglerLive)

Sally Sherman. (© FlaglerLive)

“We have some volunteers already,” Commissioner Greg Hansen said, but he did not name any. Nor did anyone else.

A couple of commissioners’ speeches aside, today’s half-hour meeting had none of the theatrics of recent commission meetings. The commissioners themselves, as if humbled by recent upheavals, opted not to sit on the dais, but rather around makeshift tables at the foot of the dais in the commission chamber, workshop-style, even though it was a special meeting. Sherman sat with them. The chamber was cavernously empty but for 17 people–six county staffers, four members of the clerk of court’s office, including Clerk of Court Tom Bexley, Sheriff Rick Staly and Chief Mark Strobridge, and five others, including former Sheriff Jim Manfre. Manfre recently applied to be city manager in Palm Coast. He is likely to apply for the interim post at the county.

Toward the end of the meeting, Commissioner Charlie Ericksen delivered a brief speech comparing county government’s current path to that of Apollo 13, the manned mission to the moon that went awry and required much ingenuity and improvisation to return its crew of three to earth, safely. “The year is now 2019 and we need another Jim or Jane to step in,” Ericksen said, referring to Jim Lovell, the Apollo crew chief. Ericksen joked that he called Lovell, who is now 90, but “he wasn’t interested.”

The exaggerated comparison aside, Ericksen made two more significant points. One of them was that the commission should convince Sherman and Meyer to stay several more months, through the transition. The other is of broader consequence: he said the commission needs to work with others to “get the sheriff’s ops center concluded and get a new one built.” It was almost a throw-away line at the end of his speech, but it was the first time that Ericksen declared himself against considering re-entering the troubled Sheriff’s Operations Center, joining Commissioner Dave Sullivan, who declared last week that he was opposed to spending any more money on the structure, and wants a new one built.

Commissioners did not comment about Ericksen’s statement, though earlier O’Brien and Commissioner Joe Mullins spoke of the county’s staff as if to reassure staffers that there is no hit list.

“This team that was put in place is impressive,” Mullins said.

“I’m very confident this government will function on a day-to-day basis without a hitch,” O’Brien said.

No members of the public addressed the commission, though the Chamber of Commerce’s president Jorge Guttierez, had drafted a one-page memo to the commission echoing the nine-point outline the chamber had proposed to Palm Coast during its search for a new manager.

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20 Responses for “Help Wanted: Flagler County Seeking Interim Manager and Hoping to Stave Off Exodus”

  1. Facts says:

    All of this could have been prevented years ago. But our Commission decided to follow instead of lead. The county administrator serve at your pleasure. It is not the other way around. We need commissioners that can make decisions based on facts.

  2. John dolan esq. says:

    Hire someone from the County. Dont get some expert from “out of town”. There must be a qualified candidate already working in local government. If not why not?

  3. beachcomberT says:

    If the Flagler County Commission can’t figure out how to do a recruitment of a temporary or permanent manager, it should seek help from a public administration expert at one of the state universities. You start with a job posting that is public and available to all. The chairman shouldn’t be asking people to shoot him an email if they are interested. That gives the appearance of cronyism and a sham of a search. The $63,000 payment that the commission is calling severance is also suspect. Did Coffey actually resign, which would not qualify for severance, or was it actually a resignation in lieu of being fired?

  4. Michael Cocchiola says:

    O.k. We’re getting back on track. The BOCC needs to lead this county.

  5. Ben Hogarth says:

    What I’m reminded of…..

    Ryan: I want an outsider.
    Jim Halpert: Perfect. There are several outside candidates that we think would be really…
    Ryan: No, I mean an ousider. Like someone on the margins of society. Who doesn’t see things like we do. Like a homeless person.
    Pam Beesly: A homeless person. Really? A homeless person.
    Ryan: No, you’re right, Pam. Let’s just leave them to the welfare system. Let that handle it.
    (The Office)

    In troubling times, a little comic relief always goes a long way…

    So does ethics and I hope the (outsider) interim comes adorned in them. I guess you could say that would be “a small step for mankind, and a giant leap for Flagler County.”

  6. Bob says:

    [Note: the commenter’s claim that there was no deputy administrator before Coffey is incorrect. The position predates Coffey’s arrival by almost three years. It was created in April 2005, when Jim Jarrell, formerly the airport director, was appointed to it.–FL]

    We didn’t have a assistant county manager before Coffey came to town and don’t need one now!!! This was a created position that needs to be abolished!

    Applications from locals, especially previous politicians and associates of BOCC members should all be rejected!! We don’t need somebody holding hands with any commissioners-we had that till we got rid of them. Look what it got us then!! Don’t do a repeat.

    Advertise the position of manager around the country and hire someone. The COUNTY BOCC/Manager only serves about 20,000 residents and a very small portion of the county—-the Hammock and unincorporated area of the county. This is not rocket science gentlemen.

    It’s time for this BOCC to come to their senses and first determine if positions are needed. How about talking to staff and former staff that have carried the load!!!!

    Ericksen, you are a scary creature. You need to retire!

  7. Percy's mother says:

    I listened to the proceedings this Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. on WNZF. I didn’t hear a lot of audience participation. Could it have been because most people are WORKING at that time on a Monday morning?

    Here are my thoughts:

    1. A ship of fools now in full realization of the fall out from all this.

    2. I am STILL ticked off at Erickson’s comments last week (as follows):
    Ericksen then made unsubstantiated charges–that the revelations were motivated by sexism and racism: “The comments came from men who don’t like women in the position, and then express it, and there are some people who don’t like it because they think of the way of the 1960s, if you know what I mean.”

    It was completely UNNECESSARY to bring sexism and a racial component into this debate Mr. Erickson.

    Mr. Erickson, this has NOTHING to do with “men who don’t like women” and “some people who don’t like it because they think of the way of the 1960s”.

    As an extremely highly educated WOMAN I take exception to insinuating that “men who don’t like women” have a problem with Sally Sherman. I also take exception to you playing the “race card”, which is a very passive-aggressive way of shutting people down when they try to debate an issue. This shows that you do not have a clue as to what motivates the people of this county.

    Your comments were inexcusable and they are unsubstantiated.

    Please DO NOT think that Sally Sherman will be an acceptable interim and/or new manager for the county. It has nothing to do with her race and/or the fact that she is a woman, it has to do with the fact that she was “double-dipping” on our dime. Without FlaglerLive, the citizens of this county would never have known what was going on.

    Your comments will never be forgotten.

  8. Lnzc says:

    I hope manfree is not hired
    He helped put the sheriff department in the old hospital building

  9. Just the facts says:

    You have to wonder why Sherman and Mayer resigned so quickly. What do they think will be uncovered now that Coffey isn’t there to cover things up?

  10. Concerned Citizen says:

    Instead of internal emails and verbal requests the BOCC needs to do the right thing.

    Post the job on Employ Florida and other official job search sights. Do proper interviews and screening to get us the proper candidate.

    Most importantly make sure they are qualified. And make sure they know they work for you and not the other way around.

  11. atilla says:

    What ever is uncovered we will probably never hear about it. The ship of fools is a good description of this board.

  12. Right says:

    @Lnzc, Manfre? If the idea is to better the county and head in a positive direction, last thing we need to do is go backward and get that failed sheriff back on the county payroll.

  13. Heading North says:

    Good Lord!
    Are they actually entertaining an application from Manfre??? Please say it ain’t so!!!
    Maybe he just wants to buy another scrap building on the counties dime and repeat history!
    Hopefully the people on the BOCC are smarter than that!!!!
    Find someone qualified, educated and with common sense who will look out for the citizens interests and not their own!
    Just sayin.

  14. Insider says:

    County staff is in need of leadership change. PLEASE Commissioners do not bring any past or current staff or administrators from within the county to fill the interim or permanent position. Dick Kelton – NO. Kevin Guthrie – NO. James Manfre – NO. This County requires a new vision! While this County may have a barrage of “volunteers” ready to step up, hire a professional with the expertise this County needs that has no ties to the community!

  15. Michael Van Buren says:

    I pray to God that this County will not even consider Jim Manfre for that position. He’s done enough damage already! Flagler County deserves much better.

  16. Nancy N. says:

    Bob – it is simply not true that the BOCC only serves residents of the unincorporated county. City residents pay taxes to the county, and we vote for the BOCC members. The BOCC provides many services to residents of Palm Coast, including roads, police protection, elections, property records, courts, tax collector’s services, parks, and other items.

  17. thomas says:

    Good riddance to both of them.

  18. Jojo says:

    Hopefully the commission has learned from the past – Manfre was a disaster both times at the Sheriffs office. I din’t know how good of a lawyer he is but just because a job opening is available doesn’t mean he should fill it. Hiring Manfre is the same as keeping Coffey. Both of them are crooked, controlling and cannot be trusted.

  19. Beachbum says:

    As to the matter of Manfre applying for any leadership position in the county… he was certainly a part of the sheriff’s building debacle (I think his wife might have even been the listing agent) and I may be wrong but I think he’s also acting as Dennis McDonald’s lawyer. Birds of a feather?? I can only echo Michael Van Buren’s statement that Flagler County deserves much better than this self-serving individual.

  20. Pam says:

    If you hire within, you will get someone with personal agendas and ‘friends’. Go outside. You don’t want the ‘good ole boy’ system, then don’t hire local.

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