You could tell that Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez has had Melbourne on his mind. On a few occasions at the last city commission meeting, he said “Melbourne” when he meant to say Bunnell.
Martinez has in fact again been looking to leave Bunnell, this time to be city manager of Satellite Beach in Brevard County. He is one of four finalists for the job. The Satellite Beach City Council is meeting at 7:30 this evening, in a special session, to pick a manager.
Martinez sought a job in Brevard in 2011, when he applied to be a police chief in Melbourne. He’s been itching to move to Melbourne for two reasons: that’s where his family lives, and where he commutes back and forth daily, logging some 200 miles a day. And the election of Bill Baxley to the Bunnell City Commission this month weakened Martinez’s support on the council.
Baxley defeated Daisy Henry, who, with Mayor Catherine Robinson and Vice Mayor Jenny Crain-Brady, had been unquestioning supporters of Martinez. Baxley now joins Commissioners Elbert Tucker and John Rogers, who are more predispose to question Martinez even as they recognize and appreciate his managerial skills. It is common for city and county managers to apply for work elsewhere in anticipation of political shifts.
“Bunnell is a great City that has afforded me the type of hands on experience, very few get to benefit from,” Martinez writes of his management style in his application. “As the City Manager, and with the cooperation and trust of our City Commission, I was able to overhaul this nearly bankrupt City. I started as an ambassador for change in a broken Police Department and then, as City Manager. I was entrusted to create a management team that would assist me in accomplishing many goals that led to the City’s economic recovery in just five years. Our reserves have tripled, our utilities are self-sufficient and financially sound, and our level of service is better than ever.” (See Martinez’s full application package below.)
Applicants typically focus on the positive and hope the negative is not noticed or questioned. Martinez passes over in silence the devastating State Attorney’s investigation and report, all conducted on his watch, on the irregularities and corruptions of the Bunnell Police Department—which led to the arrest and conviction of two cops and the firing, demotion and reinstatements of others. It passes over in silence the debates over Martinez’s pay, the job title he had to give up after it was discovered that his dual titles violated the state constitution, and the various lawsuits the city contended with during his tenure, among them resulting in a six-figure settlement over the firing of former Bunnell cop Frank Gamarra, now a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy.
He also leaves silent the Bunnell administration’s years of squatting in the county administration building for lack of office space of its own. That issue is heading for resolution, however, as Martinez was instrumental in securing the old county courthouse as Bunnell’s next city hall (and the delays were not of his doing so much as those of Flagler’s chronic political wrangles).
Martinez lists his total compensation at $120,000, and reveals his involvement in a civil suit in Borward County, related to investments gone bad. The revelation was in response to a question by the city following a background check.
“I have purchased and sold many properties throughout the years and have always paid my creditors,” he explains in his answer. “However, there are some unique circumstances surrounding these issues for which I had to contract an attorney to defend my interests. Early on I contacted my mortgage company and attempted to refinance some of the properties I invested in. This has seemed impossible since the property is appraised significantly lower than the purchase price. The two specific properties listed are currently being worked through the legal system and resulted in the civil action I initiated. My attempt all along is to refinance at a lower interest rate to secure these properties until the market returns.”
“The elected officials for whom I have worked would be my best references, and can corroborate that I am the person with the qualities described above,” he adds, though he cites only one elected official he’s worked for—Robinson, the mayor—as a reference. She told a Satellite Beach official that he has been “by far the best manager she has ever had,” according to a summary of the conversation. “Mayor Robinson,” the summary notes add, “cannot imagine life in Bunnell without Mr. Martinez. He is simply irreplaceable. She and the entire community will be devastated if he leaves but she will be happy for him and his family if he accepts a position closer to his home.” Martinez, whose effusive personality is congenial to the point of obsequiousness, is especially appreciated by most members of his staff, most of which he rebuilt with seasoned professionals, and on whose behalf he advocates without reserve. He includes Barbara Harkins, his own human resources manager, among his references.
Other references included former Sheriff Don Fleming, former Bunnell City Manager Richard Diamond, former Bunnell Police Chief Arthur Jones, and former Chamber of Commerce President Doug Baxter.
Satellite Beach has been without a manager since July, following the retirement of Michael Crotty, who’d held the post 27 years. Satellite Beach, a city of 10,000 (more than three times the size of Bunnell) on the barrier island, across from Melbourne, was nearing a decision on a new manager last November, only to scrap the process when a new city council was elected. The city then hired Colin Baenziger & Associates, a head-hunting firm, to search for new candidates.
Martinez’s competition includes Courtney Barker, a Satellite Beach resident and former member of its zoning board; Konrad Hildebrandt, who was briefly city manager in Cedar Hills, Utah; and Paul Stewart, the town manager in Dundee, in Polk County, since 2009.