Palm Coast Assistant City Manager Beau Falgout and former County Administrator Craig Coffey are competing for the same job of city manager in Gainesville. They are among 55 applicants, according to the Gainesville Sun.
Coffey was forced to resign at the beginning of January after an 11-year tenure that soured over several issues and conflicts in 2018, well before that year’s election, which turned over only one seat on the commission. Coffey made the short list for Clay County manager in June. He’d also made the short list for Marco Island city manager in May, and applied to be Hernando County administrator the same month, among other applications.
Falgout’s decision to look elsewhere is not a surprise, though Gainesville is of particular attraction because he graduated from the University of Florida in 2003, worked on a graduate degree there and has fond memories of the place.
Long under the shadow of former Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon, Falgout became interim manager when the council fired Landon last August and was among the finalists to be the permanent city manager. Looking for fresh direction, and in a decision overshadowed by Landon’s taint more than by Falgout’s shortcomings, the council appointed Matt Morton as its next manager. The decision initially rattled Falgout, according to city officials familiar with the transition, but he quickly resumed his role in the deputy’s chair without hint of resentment, and his humor intact.
“I was always committed to a smooth transition between the last City Manager and the one selected by City Council, even if that wasn’t me,” Falgout said in an email. “I believe I have built a great working relationship with Mr. Morton and I am part of a great team here at Palm Coast working on innovative projects/programs to move the City forward. So, the decision to even apply for the City of Gainesville position, was not an easy one, especially since my family loves Palm Coast.”
But he told his staff this week not to start taking measures of his office in Palm Coast. It’s “very early in the process and it’s a very competitive field of candidates for the position,” Falgout said. “And regardless of the outcome, and just like when I wasn’t selected for the Palm Coast City Manager, I will still show up for work with a smile on my face and focus on my work to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
Morton spoke of his own good working relationship with Falgout and his preference that he stayed: “Beau,” he said, “adds a lot of value and is a great parner and asset to the city manager’s office.” With many directors from the previous administration replaced since Morton’s arrival, Falgout also provides a key bridge to the city’s institutional history and the complexities of the organization.
Whoever wins the job in Gainesville will have to know how to be a peacemaker and resolve conflicts in a city government in turmoil for much of the past year.
One of Falgout’s former colleagues, Chris Quinn, left his position as the city’s finance director to become Gainesville’s finance chief in the fall of 2017, though that didn’t last. Quinn resigned last fall in what was gradually becoming an unsettled organization: The city’s spokesman resigned and its human resources director was fired around the same time, then more resignations followed in succeeding months, including two assistant city managers, the strategic initiatives director and even Quinn’s successor, all culminating in the resignation of the city manager, Anthony Lyons. Lyons’s tenure had soured in curious echoes of Coffey’s–tension with the city’s police union, public dissatisfaction over Lyons’s priorities, and revelations of improprieties in hiring practices.