The next Flagler Beach city manager will have a salary of between $125,000 to $165,000–$10,000 less less than the $125,000 to $175,000 recommended by the city’s recruiting firm, but still with an upper range that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago for the small city of 5,000 people.
The city commission in an often-snippy special meeting Thursday also rewrote the profile that accompanies the job announcement for a new manager, which will be issued this weekend.
The commission is looking for a new city manager following its firing of William Whitson in February. He served less than two years. His salary when he left was $127,000 a year. Interim Manager Mike Abels, who is paid along the same terms, gave the commission a drop-dead deadline of the first week of August for his services. That has accelerated the search’s timeline, caused a few errors along the way and limited transparency in the process, which the commission tried to remedy with its special meeting. (See: “Written Out of Public Eye, Profile Framing Flagler Beach Search for Next City Manager Falters on Some Facts” and “Flagler Beach, With Unusually Limited Transparency, Is on a Schedule to Hire Next City Manager By Mid-July.”)
Colin Baezinger and Associates, the firm the city commission hired to lead the search for a new manager, also recommended including a housing stipend if the commission went with a lower range. “Generally speaking, the higher the salary range, the better the candidate pool will be,” a memo from the firm to the commissioners stated. The firm argued that because the city charter requires the city manager to live in the city, where the median price for a home is currently $627,000 (compared to $385,000 in the county as a whole), “housing costs need to be a factor when selecting a salary range.” The stipend did not make it into the parameters.
Between Daytona Beach Shores, Neptune Beach, Ponce Inlet and St. Augustine Beach, the average city manager salary is $140,000. “Of course there’s always the potential for raises based on evaluations,” Commissioner Jane Mealy said. The city is also under pressure to make additional hires, as recommended by Abels–an assistant city manager, a city engineer and others. Commission Chairman Eric Cooley had asked Abels if he had any thoughts on the salary range. Abels demurred.
Much of the hour-long meeting focused on rewriting the city profile that would frame the search for the new manager. The draft that the firm had turned in, after one-on-one meetings with the commissioners but no open discussion, contained several errors or what some commissioners took as mischaracterizations of the city.
“We have a single objective and we believe we share that with you, and that is to get this right,” Colin Baezinger and Associates’ Ron Williams told commissioners. “If that means revisions, changes, adjustments, scriveners, whatever, to whatever extent, we need to that. That clearly is our objective.” The second objective is to keep the timeline moving briskly, he said. “We clearly recognize that you’ve been provided some additional points of view, which we read as well. And quite frankly, we think that there was some good points made in regards to what I read, and of course our president read, but we just want to get it right.”
So commissioners went through the document page by page in a meeting that, on three occasions, turned more tense than the occasion warranted as Cooley chaired with unusually restrictive, at times dogmatic, parameters, admonishing fellow-commissioners against “small talk” or discussing salary issues commissioners debated at a workshop the previous day.
“I got stuff to do. I’m not here for small talk,” Cooley said, though none of the commissioners had engaged in small talk. Belhumeur had merely asked him if he had any edits on some pages.
“Eric. We’re here for this,” Mealy said.
“I understand. But I’m not here for small talk,” he said.
By the end of the meeting, Mealy was shrugging her shoulders: “You don’t care what I think,” she told Cooley. The commission lacked Mayor Suzie Johnston and Commissioner Scott Spradley (who followed online from a previously scheduled engagement out of the county, but did not participate). It still managed to edit the entire profile.
While several pictures of the pier will be removed (“Our pier no longer looks like that, and next year will not look like that at all,” Mealy said), a front-page reference to the pier will remain, since the pier represents the character of the city, with a “soon-to-be-rebuilt” note along the way. A reference to the Flagler Beach Museum’s old motto (“From the Stone Age to the Space Age”), two years defunct, will be removed, but the new version will specify that the American flag that went up in the shuttle, and is now part of the museum’s collection, was taken up by Mark Kelly, now a U.S. Senator in Arizona (as opposed to “a local astronaut”). The brochure will be clearer about the shopping district’s expanse, including State Road A1A and State Road 100.
The author of the original brochure had read the Wikipedia entry for Flagler Beach, which states that “Flagler Beach was a finalist in the 2013 Budget Travel Magazine contest for ‘Coolest Small Town’.” Actually it came in ninth (Lititz, Penn., was first). But that caused a little stir on the commission. Mealy thought the designation outdated. Commissioner Rick Belhumeur did not. “I wasn’t denying that it was a cool small town,” Mealy said. The compromise? Remove the reference to 2013.
With that erasure of historic precision, it was not surprising that Belhumeur suggested a reference to Flagler Beach’s brush with Charles Lindbergh. Cooley said the brochure would risk stretching to 13 pages if too many details were added in. “Unless it has something to do with getting a city manager, I’m not too pressed for it,” Cooley said.
Lindbergh had spent the night of November 28, 1931 in what was once the only hotel in Flagler Beach when fog forced down the army biplane he was flying to New York from Miami. A few days later he revealed that he’d heard a mysterious bump in flight as he was approaching Flagler Beach. It turned out to be a gull that struck the leading edge of the plane’s upper wing, drilling a two-inch hole and decapitating the gull. Lindbergh saved the head of the gull, wrapping it in paper like a trophy, and showed it off at Mitchel Field in New York.
Then again, it’s perhaps safer for a city only a few decades out from its sordid segregationist past not to include in its recruiting document a reference to a Nazi-sympathizing, anti-Semitic white supremacist who, in his own words, thought aviation “one of those priceless possessions which permit the White race to live at all in a pressing sea of Yellow, Black, and Brown.”
“We’ve got a lot of stuff here that is not in Flagler Beach,” Mealy said, from camp grounds to Marineland to the distant Florida Agriculture Museum to the Flagler Auditorium.
“The fact that you have amenities available in the area nearby, close by, clearly all residents take advantage of them. I would not want to eliminate that,” Williams said.
“I just don’t want to give the impression that they’re here in the city,” Mealy said.
The commissioners decided to again lessen the precision of the amenities’ locations, and to add references to boating, to the county airport “five minutes west of the city,” in Belhumeur’s words, and to a hospital four minutes away.
There were also small edits that were revealing about the commission’s generational range. The draft included a line that read: “One Commissioner has served for seventeen years, one has served for six years total, one for five years, another for one year, and one is in their first year.” Mealy did not like the grammatically jarring “one is in their first year,” a reference to Commissioner Scott Spradley. But the staff at Colin Baenziger and Associates had not written a grammatically incorrect line so much as written what is now the workplace’s increasingly accepted and more inclusive gender-neutral language. But Mealy, the commissioner who has been serving for 17 years, and a former teacher, preferred the more specific pronoun.
Yet it was Mealy who later noted: “We say we don’t discriminate against a whole bunch of stuff. How about sexual orientation, or is that getting too…” her voice trailed as she looked for the right terms. Recent Florida law is re-instituting allowances for discrimination against sexual orientation and gender designations, whether in public school settings or bathroom protocols. Williams tread cautiously: “It certainly is talked about an awful lot. We don’t know we’re a lot of stuff is moving through the state legislature,” he said. The commission agreed to add “sexual orientation” to the statement on non-discrimination.
Beyond that, the commission agreed not to narrow the search to candidates with beach community experience so much as a candidate “most understanding of the uniqueness of a small town and be committed to maintaining that uniqueness.”
Highly overpaid salary, utterly ridiculous.
You got that right
Step up says
Annette I think you should apply for the job and ask for only half that compensation.
I think people who think salaries are too high and have no idea what’s involved, and generally suffer from dunning-Krueger effect, should try to do the job. Have at it .
Doesn’t matter really, whoever they get in the position will be on a short leash of the same that the last City Manager (Whitson) was on. Low balled and never measuring up for the fact(s) that Flagler Beach is a city of 5K for a tax revenue base. The brochures are the typical marketing gimmicks to bring tourism dollars to the Flagler Beach strip for lack of a better comparison with beach areas that have had investment. The trajectory, & having been there to see it 1st hand with South Beach & Miami from Hurricane Andrew to the new millenium and even further to the end of Obama era. After that, well Miami is getting worse. But this is about Flagler Beach, which will just become more & more unaffordable just like anything Miami has, if the beach erosion(s) don’t outright sabotage development plans of grandeur. Daytona Beach, another example, Main Street & their strip is evolving, they’re losing the boardwalk really. Condos are the next phase for where that is. Even the downtown area is getting a lot more than a facelift for cosmetic urban blight of 1950’s-70’s era building. One has to ask where the Biden Build Back Better money is or even what was, went for. New hotel is Corporate investment, nothing that Biden provides. Same holds for the pier, that’s FEMA natural disaster relief, nothing that Biden is building back better for investment. One thing is for certain the masses will pay for this in any inflation(s) of the sameness of it all.
Not may go up to $165,000 but will go up to 165,000.
Josh S says
Really Commissioner Cooley? Small talk? The purpose of the meeting was clear and important. Super clear you didn’t want to be there. Then why did you vote to fire Whitson if you didn’t want to put in the time? Bye
Really! If you can’t put in the time do us a favor and resign. Enough of the posturing.
My research came up with this. This indicates to me the salary estimate is to high.
How much does a City Manager make in Florida? The average City Manager salary in Florida is $105,346 as of May 01, 2023, but the range typically falls between $96,756 and $119,260.
Wow Eric — you are there for small talk, long talk or whatever. That is what you were elected for. This reminds me of the time last year when he complained that he “didn’t sign up for this” when a meeting happened to go longer than what he and his girlfriend wanted it to. Eric, if you can’t put in the time then move on. He seems to spend more time working on a one day dog surfing contest than trying to make this crumbling city better.
Lol good one! He speaks the most at Commission meetings but doesn’t like when others speak. Waaaa waaaa
Yup, he sure does talk a lot.
But, he doesn’t say a damn thing.
Celia Pugliese says
All these city and county bureaucrats are over paid high six figures and for what every time they have a project task they hire also high paid consultants! Also some join (us residents our worst enemy #1 _ the Regional Chamber at 5,000 membership so they then get Blasoe (a seat at the table on decisions that affect us all residents taxpayers) and company cheers in any greedy rezoning, spot zoning, special exception or amendment to our original ITT residential zoning just satisfy greed and on our pockets! Never mind their chamber political involvement during elections always supporting those developers favorite candidates. What can we expect we have seated a s one city administrator a Tallahassee was or still is, a developers lobbyist, so is or was Blasoe in Daytona Beach. Very much conflict of interest “if “some Palm Coast administrators joined a $5,000 paid membership in the chamber! Just the writing in the wall…for the residents demise.