As was expected after the end of an administration lasting 11 years, turnover in Palm Coast government’s top ranks has been considerable since Matt Morton became manager last April. This afternoon, Deputy City Manager Beau Falgout, who’d been a candidate for the top job, tendered his resignation, and Morton accepted it. It was not exactly a surprise.
When Falgout fell one vote short of getting the city manager’s job last spring, it became clear that it would be a matter of time before he’d leave the Palm Coast administration he’d served since 2007, when he joined the city as a planner. He pledged to ensure that Morton’s transition was successful, and kept working.
Seeing that transition through, Falgout announced to his colleagues this afternoon that he had put in his last day “representing this amazing organization,” as he described it in an email. The only surprise is that he was not resigning to take another job. He was just resigning. And there was no two-week lag: his resignation was immediately effective this afternoon, though Falgout in a letter to Morton was offering a 10-day notice. “I am assuming that the City will request that I enter into a separation agreement and vacate City offices immediately upon acceptance of my resignation,” he wrote Morton in his resignation letter dated today.
“I tendered my resignation to Mr. Morton and I am grateful to him for his professionalism and trust he gave me over this past year,” Falgout said in his email to staff. “I am not leaving Palm Coast with any regrets or hard feelings, I am pursing other professional opportunities hopefully closer to our extended family. Palm Coast and its employees will always have a special place in my heart.”
Over the years, Falgout’s rise through city ranks weaved him through numerous departments, where he built a loyal following. He’d risen from planner to senior planner, senior economic development planner, administration coordinator, economic development director (a position he retained until his resignation), and for various periods, was also the interim IT director and of course the interim city manager, following the city council’s firing of Manager Jim Landon. But Falgout’s tenure had parallelled Landon’s almost to the month (Landon was hired a few months after Falgout’s arrival), and was seeped in Landon’s methods. He distinguished himself as his own man after Landon’s departure, but the council’s choosing Morton signaled an even more radical departure not only from the Landon years, but from the Dick Kelton years that had preceded them.
“I want to especially thank all City employees for your help and friendship over the years,” Falgout continued. “We worked through many challenges, changes, and even a few natural disasters, and you all did it with professionalism and excellence. I know you will all continue to make a positive difference in lives of citizens each and every day.”
Most directors in the city have turned over since Morton’s arrival, but Falgout’s departure will leave an especially gaping hole because of his connection to and familiarity with the city’s institutional history. On the other hand, Morton’s administration has been so forward-looking that concern with history is not a top priority. Changing the city’s direction, with innovation as a guiding principle, is.
In a brief interview this afternoon, Morton described Falgout as a “fantastic” colleague for whom the timing was right “to go look for his opportunity and try to find it.” Morton hasn’t decided who, if anyone, will fill Falgout’s post: Landon had created it in his last year as manager, when Landon was grooming Falgout as his successor. But Landon, whose insecurities at times directed his decisions, had abolished the deputy manager position shortly after taking the job. He similarly, arbitrarily recreated it once he had his retirement in view. Morton tends to take a more deliberate, consultative approach.
“I think I’m going to pause, I’m going to talk to council, I’m going to talk to staff,” Morton said of his next step regarding the position. “Obviously it leaves a hole.” He said he took comfort from the words of his relatively new human resources director, Debbie Streichsbier, who said the city was well positioned with its slate of directors and supportive council to “find the success that we’re all aiming for.”
But the deputy position is not entirely empty: Morton said he also consulted with Richard Adams, the utility director and the senior-most administrator in the organization, to ensure that he’d be in charge should Morton “get hit by a bus,” as Morton put it. Adams, he said, has the history, the knowledge and the ability to lead the city if need be, while giving staff, the council and the community a level of comfort that should something happen to Morton, the city would not be rudderless.
“Our immediate goal as a City is to reassess what the City needs from this important position and we will not be announcing any more changes to the role at this time,” Morton said in an email to staff.
By then, council members had been informed.
“Beau has been a great asset to the City of Palm Coast for several years,” Mayor Milissa Holland, who was Morton’s leading advocate during the hiring process–when Falgout was considered the favorite–said in a text. “He was a part of our City growth periods and a part of Palm Coasts downturn. I have always appreciated his level headed approach and love for our City. I understand and support Beau’s desire to spread his wings and do what is best for his family.”
“I would say we’re losing a very good talent but I understand at his young age in this particular kind of business you’ve got to go where there’s opportunity,” council member Jack Howell said. Howell had voted, along with Bob Cuff, to hire Falgout as city manager last March. “I can only wish him well and I’m sure wherever he lands he’ll do a great job. Unfortunately, one of the downsides on this is that he has a lot of corporate memory for being here from an x amount of years. Then again, so does Virginia Smith.” Smith is the city clerk. “I was surprised that he’s leaving, but I’m not shocked.”
Asked if, in light of his vote to hire Falgout, he was supportive of Morton, Howell immediately said: “Absolutely, absolutely. We made a great choice with the new guy. But I explained to Matt Morton and his wife, from my perspective, I was voting for Beau not only because I respected his tenure there, but also I got to know him well, it’s a matter of loyalty. But in a military organization, when there’s a new CO that’s brought in, you start anew.”
About 20 minutes after Falgout sent his email to staff (with “Farewell My Friends” in the subject line), Morton followed up with one of his own.
“I have accepted his resignation and wish Beau the absolute best in all of his future endeavors in what is sure to be a long and successful career,” Morton wrote. “The resignation may come as a shock to many of you, but I want to take a moment to underscore that Beau is leaving the City on great terms. He has served Palm Coast faithfully for many years and this transition is going to allow him to focus on finding his next role, whatever that may be.”
A few months ago Falgout was among the applicants for the city manager’s job in Gainesville, as was Craig Coffey, who was pushed out of the county manager’s job in January, after a tenure as long as Landon’s. Neither got the job–or made the shortlist. The job went to Lee Feldman, who’d managed Palm Bay and Fort Lauderdale.
“Personally,” Morton added in his email to staff, “I’ve known Beau for a shorter time than many of you, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both working with him and getting to know him in the process. He has been a valuable partner and asset for all of us.”