If it weren’t for City Commissioner Rick Belhumeur’s rather sour, outlying evaluation, Larry Newsom would have had a comfortable “outstanding” combined score from the other commissioners and the mayor as he approaches the fourth anniversary of his tenure in Flagler Beach.
The mayor and three commissioners had Newsom in the outstanding category, with each of their average scores above 4.5 out of a possible 5. Commissioner Kim Carney, who is currently chairing the commission, gave him a 4, barely in the “exceeds job standards” category. Still, those five scores combined average out at 4.63.
“He takes his job very seriously and accomplishes as much as possible, given the staff and financial resources available,” Commissioner Jane Mealy wrote in her sum-up comments about him. Her evaluation was less than a decimal point short of a perfect 5. Her only 4’s were for his clarity, communications with commissioners and his grant-seeking. “He wants the City to be the best it can be and works hard toward that goal. I am pleased with his improved relationship with the County administrator and managers of the other Flagler cities, allowing for more to be accomplished at all levels.”
Commisssioners Marshall Shupe and Eric Cooley each gave Newsom a 4.85.
But Newsom’s bottom-line score is 4.38. It “exceeds job standards,” but it’s not “outstanding.” The cause is Belhumeur’s 3.12, which had a depressing effect on the overall result. Belhumeur gave the manager middling marks on Newsom’s relationship with the commission, on his public relations, on his leadership of staff, even on his personal traits such as initiative, fairness and openness (actually giving him a 2 on initiative: “needs improvement.”) Belhumeur also gave him a 2 on whether Newsom prepares a realistic, easy to understand annual budget, and a 2 on his written communications.
“It is my hope that the City Manager’s passion to manage our City will be enhanced by hiring an assistant that we, the Commission, have had in the budget for the better part of an entire year,” Belhumeur wrote in his summary evaluation. “Maybe he won’t feel quite so overwhelmed at times after handing over a lot of tasks to an assistant. The City needs his leadership to progress further into the 21st century, not spending so much of his time solving problems created in the 20th century.”
Commissioners will be discussing the evaluations at this evening’s commission meeting, which begins at 5:50 p.m. The meeting’s agenda and background materials, however, do not include the evaluations: only the summative scores. Links to the full evaluations are below.
Newsom’s communication skills are a recurring issue with commissioners. Carney, too, gave him 3’s in that category, but higher marks in all others. (Newsom can seem more gruff than he is, with a fondness for salty language that frames a self-assured candor and a bit of impatience with those who don’t keep up with him.)
“Larry has made good decisions on reorganizing staff,” Carney wrote of the manager. “He is on top of important city matters and is [conscientious] about where the city budget and resources stand. He realizes Rome was not built in a day. Larry worked steadfastly through a recent illness and staff was able to function without him. This is the sign of a good leader. He is prompt in returning my calls and deals with my questions and suggestions openly and honestly. That is important to me. His connections in Tallahassee and with with FDOT has earned him respect amongst his peers.” (FDOT is the acronym for the Florida Department of Transportation.)
Cooley was more detailed in his evaluation even as he gave high marks, his criticism often more biting than the scores show: “I would like to see more accountability of department heads,” he wrote in the leadership category of the evaluation. “I believe some departments are currently underperforming.” The next sentence, however, commends Newsom: “Great job overall with handling of staff and your relationship with them.” In the next category, he again questions department heads: “I would like you to challenge department heads more to be fiscally prudent and push back more on capital expenses that would be viewed as not necessary,” he wrote, addressing Newsom. Cooley did not give examples.
He also wants to hear from Newsom about pushing the city beyond day-to-day administration “into a more long-term vision and good planning.”
For Commissioner Marshall Shupe, Newsom “does a great job, and continues to bring the city out of the past with a positive approach to the future. Always with the citizens’ interests first.” And Linda Provencher, the mayor: “Larry listens to the needs of the commission. He is available 24-7.” She says he has the staff’s respect, and is “doing a great job. He has had to deal with two hurricanes since coming on board, and still has moved forward with projects.”
The full evaluations: