Matt Morton left Palm Coast City Hall for the last time on Wednesday around 2 p.m., shortly after negotiating Interim City Manager Denise Bevan’s contract.
Bevan will be paid the equivalent of $161,400 a year, plus a $400 monthly car allowance, health and other benefits. Her starting day as interim was Wednesday, the latest and most advanced in a variety of jobs Bevan has held with the city since starting there in February 2007. She’ll serve as interim until the council hires a new manager–assuming it’s not Bevan.
Morton announced his intention to resign last week, an unexpected decision that followed shortly on the heels of the resignation of Mayor Milissa Holland. He gave the city a 30-day notice, but at Tuesday’s meeting, when the council voted 4-0 to elevate Bevan, the council decided to waive Morton’s 30-day requirement. Morton in his resignation letter had alluded to interference from current council members, though he spoke of other reasons in an interview.
“I’ve done this for 27 years, and until I stepped in this county’s boundaries, this has never been a problem for me,” Morton said, referring to a tenure beset by controversies, many of them manufactured and baseless, and significant administrative turmoil at City Hall. “They say people don’t change their stripes. I’ve never stood for corruption or doing things the wrong way. When things have been painful I’ve admitted to it and owned it. So just as a constant barrage and the social media cesspool and the toll it takes on my kids, who get bullied at school over this–I’m like, you know what? It’s not worth it anymore. I can go to the private sector, which I intend to do, and would love to do. But I’m done I’m done. I’ve served, community and country for 27 years. I will never go in government again. I’m done. I think the world has changed. I think government has changed. I think the culture has changed. I want no part of it anymore and did my part. I feel like I served in the military, I did my 27 years and I’m done.”
Bevan has been a city administration coordinator of sustainability and was recently elevated to chief of staff, alongside Lauren Johnston. Council members have frequently worked with Bevan, which leads the council’s Strategic Action Plan from the administrative side, a job that requires her to meet with council members periodically and to lead lengthy quarterly sessions with the council as a group, updating the plan, amending it and exploring new directions.
Bevan has a Bachelor of Science degree from Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Her interim contract follows the same parameter of the contract Beau Falgout signed after the council fired former City Manager Jim Landon in September 2018. Falgout was short-listed for the permanent manager’s job, but the council chose Morton in April 2019. The hiring process for the next manager is expected to take several months, leaving Bevan to lead the city from the administration’s side through the next months’ budget process–and the special election for mayor, scheduled for July 27. Eight candidates have filed to run. The qualifying window closes Monday at noon.