Matt Doughney, Flagler Beach’s police chief for the past seven years, can’t be Flagler Beach’s interim city manager after all: the city commission had appointed him last week to replace the late Larry Newsom, pending a permanent replacement following a search. But if Doughney were to hold the interim post, he’d have to stop being a police officer, which wasn’t an issue for him, but he’d also have to withdraw from his police pension, which was an issue.
“I just can’t keep this position without losing what I have invested in the police department,” Doughney said this afternoon during a special meeting, after sitting in as the interim manager for the previous five hours, as the commission was workshopping its budget for the third time in two weeks.
Instead, the commission made a surprise appointment: Rick McFadden, its long-time building official, who said he was willing to take on the role if it helped. He did not exactly jump on the opportunity, as even Doughney half-joked. “He’s looking like maybe there’s a second Rick McFadden in the room,” Doughney said as McFadden was called to the podium.
McFadden said he was willing to take the job “knowing that Matt and Bobby would be there, if for no other reason than to make sure that position would be filled, and to cover that position.” Bobby is Bobby Pace, the fire chief. Among his more premonitory decisions in his final months Newsom had established a succession list of city directors who’d step in for him in his absence, starting with Pace, Doughney and Penny Overstreet, the city clerk. Doughney had switched places with Pace in more recent weeks. As McFadden himself all but acknowledged indirectly, Doughney would still clearly be fulfilling the role of interim manager, but without the title.
McFadden would have to drop his building official role as interim, though he could still conduct building inspections. He said there wasn’t much commercial construction going on, enabling him to pass off the rest of his duties to another official. “Time-frame, before you find another city manager, I don’t think we’re going to have anything that big start up,” he said. He said Palm Coast and Flagler County also offer help when needed.
“How would you handle the general workload? I know you work a lot of hours now,” Commissioner Eric Cooley asked him. “You can;’t do both, you have to do dedicated city manager work.”
“I understand that. I’m perfectly aware,” McFadden said. He was the only internal candidate who showed interest.
Commissioner Ken Bryan commended McFadden for the “no non-sense” way he deals with the public and with city staff.
“Whoever sits here whether it’s Rick or anybody else,” Doughney, who wasn’t even aware McFadden had been interested, said, “anybody in this city who’s a department head is going to be really behind the person in this seat to get the job done.”
The city had other options, but commissioners were not comfortable with those options, given the time crunch they are under.
Ken Parker, for decades the former city manager in Port Orange and now a senior advisor with the Florida City-County Managers’ Association, wrote Mayor Linda Provencher and offered his services to help the city find an interim. Parker would provide a list of retired city and county managers willing to put in a temporary assignment at Flagler Beach’s helm, he told city officials. The group Parker represents was previously known as the “Range Riders.”
Doughney had also forwarded some suggestions. He’d contacted County Administrator Jerry Cameron, who was offering one of his directors to Flagler Beach (Jarrod Shupe, the son of a former Flagler Beach commissioner, runs the city’s IT and is the county’s IT director; he’d been short-listed for the county’s assistant administrator job but was passed over.)
Commissioners don’t have the luxury of time, their attorney, Drew Smith, said: they have to appoint an interim. “You have an office that is unfilled, the duty is being fulfilled by an ex-officio,” Smith said, referring to Doughney. “This cannot string on indefinitely, because we have an empty office right now.” Doughney would continue to be the city’s spokesman, among many other duties.
Cooley said despite the McFadden appointment, a back-up plan was still necessary–such as examining the Range Riders. But Jane Mealy, who chairs the commission, said she wasn’t sure the Range Rider option would work. Mealy was also “not thrilled” with using another proposed option, GovHR, a public management consulting firm.
“So, have we hired a city manager?” Mealy asked toward the end of the half-hour special meeting. The city manager called for a motion. Bryan made the motion. He had to ask what McFadden’s full name was. The appointment is in effect “until such time as we have recruited a full-time” manager.
“Congratulations, I think,” Mealy said.
“To be clear, do you accept the appointment?” Smith asked him.
“Yes I do,” McFadden laughed, paused, then added, “without reservations.”
Newsom was paid $122,000 a year. Commissioners agreed to award McFadden the same salary. McFadden’s first request was not to take the job until Sept. 14, and would have a substitute sitting in at the next city commission meeting.
The Parker option is still very much on the table for the permanent appointment. Parker would essentially be the city’s guide or shepherd in its search, helping the city craft its job description and profile over a month’s time. It would be advertised for 30 days. Parker’s group would help narrowing down the list of applicants if the commission so chose (Mealy had adamantly opposed going that route just last week). Parker’s group would also conduct extensive background checks. The commission agreed to go the Parker route.