Unusually for the Flagler Beach City Commission, you could have blinked once and missed the entire, latest discussion on City Manager Bruce Campbell’s job status. Campbell, who was at the center of an 18-month controversy that finally ended in October 2011 with his permanent appointment as manager, was given his first full job evaluation by the commission. It was only a few twinkles short of glowing, assuring Campbell of solid job security even from his two strongest critics on the commission—Chairman Jane Mealy and Commissioner Joy McGrew.
Overall, Campbell scored just shy of For Bruce Cambpell 120 points on a scale of 145—enough to rate him at the low end of “outstanding” overall. His scores were somewhat depressed by McGrew’s and Mealy’s, who rated him as merely “exceeding job standard.” The high marks contrasted very sharply with trepidation by Campbell opponents in 2011 that he was not suited to be a manager, and vindicated Campbell’s resilience—first in seeking the job, then in managing to hold it with a minimum of controversy.
The most tense period of his tenure unfolded over the summer when he clashed with Fire Chief Martin Roberts, and sought to fire him—over Martin’s decision to take a fact-finding trip about fire trucks on his own time, supposedly without informing the city manager. Martin’s attorney, in a long and revealing hearing that cast doubt on Campbell’s version of events, made it very difficult for Campbell to follow-through with the firing without facing the possibility of a lawsuit, including an age-discrimination suit. So Campbell retreated, handing Roberts a three-day suspension without pay.
The matter did not show Campbell in his best light. Curiously, it was not mentioned by any of the city commissioners or the mayor in their evaluations, likely because none of them wanted to expose the city to further liability over the issue. They were not eager to discuss the evaluation openly, either.
When the matter of discussing the evaluations came up at the city commission’s meeting last week, Mealy was puzzled about the next step. “I’m not sure what we’re doing with this,” mealy said, when it was time to take on the agenda item. Commissioner Steve Settle, always Campbell’s strongest cheerleader, suggested accepting the evaluations and placing them in the record. His colleagues quickly agreed, took a unanimous vote, and the matter was ended. There was no talk of changing Campbell’s $90,000-a-year pay.
The commissioners’ comments provide the clearest, documented window yet into their thinking about Campbell. (See the full document below.)
Mealy had stood by her opposition to Campbell through the months of debate over his appointment—until the very last vote that formalized his nomination, when Mealy finally joined the majority to ensure that the appointment was unanimous. She’s remained his most critical supervisor, giving him an overall mark of 94, the lowest—by eight points—of all her colleagues’ ratings But it was still good enough to keep Campbell in the “exceeds job standards” range. And Mealy’s detailed evaluations of Campbell were nuanced. She was complimentary of Campbell’s ability to bring in more revenue and look at ways to save money, though she wants to see more follow-through on the latter.
“While I believe it is very important that Bruce actively participate in public activities, I do not think that a city manager should engage in the work of a maintenance man,” such as setting up and knocking down hardware for special events like First Friday. “It is more difficult to supervise when found in a fraternizing position.”
Mealy also wrote: “On a few occasions, during discussions I’ve had with Bruce in his office regarding commission meeting agenda items, I was unsure as to his suggested direction. I would suggest that Bruce be more specific and/or consistent when offering that type of direction.”
Mealy wants to see Campbell more involved in state legislative issues that could affect the city, more involved in big-picture management and less involved in the minutiae of his staff’s responsibilities. “He should give his staff more opportunity to grow and shine,” Mealy says.
Commissioner Joy McGrew was never a great fan of Campbell, but not an enemy, either: it was her vote that finally broke the stalemate over his appointment in 2011, giving him the interim chance to be manager, before his status was later made permanent. Other than Commissioner Marshall Shupe, who contributed no evaluation aside from two sets of grades (the highest grades Campbell got), McGrew contributed the shortest evaluation: a 20-word sum-up that had few suggestions other than re-assigning “overloaded department heads”, accelerating a parking study and keeping tabs on a committee appointed to review ordinances. Her marks still gave Campbell a composite rating of 102, in the “exceeds job standards” range, and several points higher than Mealy’s 94.
Settle’s evaluation was almost as short. He commends Campbell on “strong fiscal control” with an eye to the future, but wants him to ward off and have more independence from “undue influence from county and chamber of commerce.” Settle does not elaborate.
Commissioner Kim Carney gave Campbell glowing marks for his relationship with the city commission, his interactions with the business community, the public and other governments, his fiscal restraint and his administrative leadership. “Not everyone is on board with a new manager,” Carney writes. “I think the staff respects the fact that he does things differently. It doesn’t mean his way is right or wrong, it may be different. I believe he leads by example.” She calls him a realist—“he does not make promises he knows he cannot deliver.”
Carney’s evaluation sought to give Campbell breathing room for the long term: “I believe he has the ability to lead the city into the future while maintaining a well-run government,” Carney wrote. She had no suggestions for Campbell to change anything.
And Campbell himself contributed a four-page, single-spaced self-evaluation that left little room for criticism. “I have not only worked very hard, but have always attempted to do what is best for our city, along with carrying out the policies and directions set forth by our elected officials,” he concluded.