It’s not Interim County Administrator Jerry Cameron anymore. On Monday, the Flagler County Commission stopped the process of finding a search firm for its next administrator–not that there’d been much of a process to start with–and in a matter of minutes, declared Cameron the county administrator for the foreseeable future. That could be a few years rather than the few months the commission expected him to serve when it initially hired him in February.
It’s a change of track more for the county than for Cameron. During his one-on-one job interviews with commissioners, Cameron said he’d put a three-year time limit on his commitment, depending on the commission’s needs. It now appears almost certain he’ll shepherd the county through the 2020 election and is the administrator responsible for resolving such issues as the Plantation bat utility revamp, the Captain’s Barbecue expansion controversy at Bing’s Landing, the homeless camp at the county’s public library in Palm Coast, and most significantly, the construction of a new sheriff’s operations center near the library in the next 24 months.
Cameron, 73, and at the end of his career, signaled he will tackle those issues with a much freer hand than a younger administrator worried about his or her job, her future or public criticism. In essence, Cameron’s tenure will be like that of a second-term president who has nothing to fear, no votes to preserve.
“The fact that I don’t have firm plans and commitments I think gives me more freedom to address problems without a larger concern about criticism, risk of employment, that sort of things,” Cameron said this morning as he drove the thirty miles from his home in St. Johns County. He does not intend to move. “I’m not planning a career. I’m here just to address problems.”
Those problems also mean divesting the county of three properties it bought for a combined $3.2 million, and that it no longer can occupy, no longer needs or no longer wants: the doomed Sheriff’s Operations Center in Bunnell, bought in 2013 for $1.23 million and converted from an old hospital, the old Wachovia Bank building off Old King’s Road bought last year for $900,000 and intended to be a permanent sheriff’s district office, and the Sears building off Palm Coast Parkway it bought just last month for $1.1 million.
Commission Chairman Donald O’Brien proposed to his colleagues on Monday that “we basically slow down” the search for a new administrator “or discontinue it right now.”
“One, I’m extremely pleased with Mr. Cameron’s performance at this point and his dedication and commitment to our county,” O’Brien said. “So we know that long-term we’re going to have to do that, but he’s also given indications to me and I’m sure some of you as well that his time horizon is not necessarily what we thought it might have been originally or six to nine months, it may be two to three years, I’m not sure.” It was.
O’Brien was speaking immediately after Cameron and his staff had submitted options to move on from the plagued Sheriff’s Operations Center and build a $12 to $15 million new building near the county library in Palm Coast, a plan that would have the collateral consequence of condemning the homeless camp there. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the plan, thus scoring Cameron’s first significant achievement and setting him up to be the county’s clean-up hitter. His demeanor–unassuming, relaxed, disarming, though it hides a steely streak that can burn red even as he velvets his tactics in flattery–is hitting it off with most commissioners.
“There’s a lot of problems here as we’ve seen over the last few months that have been just ignored, neglected, manipulated, that need to be resolved,” Commissoner Joe Mullins said, “and to switch someone real soon would be setting up that new person for failure, and it would also be taking away from the progress and the strides that Mr. Cameron is making. I think he’s done a phenomenal job. I would like to see us totally stop this right now to looking for a new one and let him get in here and continue the path of utilizing the staff and allowing them to work to move forward.”
Cameron has been receptive and responsive to Mullins’s barrages of information, requests and proddings of all sorts while keeping other commissioners equally apprised of issues on their own terms.
“Mr. Cameron has demonstrated out of the blocks that not only he can do the job but he can take us to new heights and he’s got some vast knowledge of some other options available to that,” Commissioner Charlie Ericksen said, citing the resolution of the Sheriff’s Operations Center.
Cameron is being paid an annual salary of $160,000, not including a $1,000-a-month car allowance (Craig Coffey,m his predecessor, had a $400 car allowance) and other benefits and compensation totaling $237,000. He would be in line fora raise in accordance with the inflation rate next March.
He’d been referred to as an interim county administrator. But County Attorney Al Hadeed told commissioners that regardless of their move on Monday, “his title is county administrator. That’s by law.”
Commissioners did not vote on a motion to suspend the search or to name Cameron their permanent manager, the latter being legally a moot point, but rather by consensus directed the administrator to–in Hadeed’s words–“suspend the present search and await for further instructions from the board.” The move was reminiscent of the Flagler Beach City Commission’s relationship with an interim of its own several years ago, Bernie Murphy, who ended up remaining the city manager in that formalized limbo for four years. That ended only when Murphy himself finally told the commission he was done extending his services.
“The time I’m here depends on what they want me to do,” Cameron said this morning. “I just don’t have a crystal ball on that, things are going really well right now.” He credited the county staff as “probably the strongest staff” he’s worked with, though it’s inconceivable that he;d have said any less of staffs he’s worked with elsewhere. His liberating approach to the work ahead would be summed up in six words he spoke this morning: “You just do the right thing.”
The more you know….
At $237,000, this will make the Flagler County Administrator, one of the least populated counties in the state of Florida, THE highest paid government employee in the state.
Moreover, his compensation exceeds that of EVERY SINGLE GOVERNOR in the United States. All 50 of them.
Wait, it gets better! The little ole county of Flagler, Florida, United States’ Administrator will have a higher pay rate than every single United States congress member and every executive branch cabinet member. That’s folks like McConnell, Pulosi, Barr, etc. Only the President and Vice President of the United States will earn more.
Wrap your small town brains around all that, and continue to convince yourselves this isn’t the most corrupt, sleezy little county in the country. And you guys want to whine about garbage pickup. Exactly what these cronies want you to do.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
A bright ray of hope for Flagler County..
. Jerry Cameron has brains, a big heart, lots of knowledge and patience and thankfully no ego issues . Great News! Yes, we are paying top dollar but in this case we are getting top dollar-finally.
Thank you Jerry for being brave enough to tackle the mess around here. I’m rootin’ for ‘ya
Ben Hogarth says
I think this decision was for the best to ensure continuity of operations and recovery. It really is a long term emergency operation considering the state of affairs the previous administration left the County. It does appear that Mr. Cameron has handled the office with an eye for practicable solutions and a keen sense of proper management. I’m pretty sure Mr. Cameron would look at this as the sunset of his career and would be far more willing to make the difficult decisions needed to bring about the most equitable and “best practice” solutions. As the former Special Projects Coordinator – my advice would be to focus on Plantation Bay now that the Sheriffs issue has been mainly address. If I had to evaluate risk – the utility is the highest by far.
He may be a great guy BUT this whole process has been bush league. I don’t expect much out of these commissioners and they don’t disappoint.
Concerned Citizen says
The “Interim Manager” title wasn’t fooling anyone. And you aren’t either. Honesty is the best policy.
Good luck with this…He has no education…..minimal experience.
Why would they ever decide on this candidate?
The Commission needs to go.
Concerned Citizen says
Maybe 2020 will see a new BOCC and a new Sheriff.
We surely need it as well as a forensic audit. This BOCC as well as Administrators and elected officials spend money like it’s endless.
I have done my part to vote irresponsible and unethical incumbents out. I have attended numerous BOCC meetings and have tried to let them know how we feel. I have also done my part to write State Officials and try to warn them of the unethical conduct in this County. The old saying ” It takes a community” is so true in this matter.
I implore all of the registered voters in this County to step up in 2020. Send a message to our elected leadership. Let them know that singularly representing special interests and accepting bribes is no longer acceptable. We need to remind them that they represent ALL constituents. Not just over priced BBQ joints and Realtors who say buy this. You need it. We need a Sheriff that will Command all of his agency. Not just the glamorous parts. One who leads by example and doesn’t run to Dubai to escape a wrongful death investigation.
Remember in 2020 changes start with US!!
Well duh, no point in continuing a search if you’re already on the hook with this guy as far as compensation goes…right? If you let him go early I’m sure he’ll still get quite a sum from us all anyway.
It’s a win, win situation for him and a lose, lose one for us.