The Flagler Beach City Commission this evening opted to narrow down a list of five candidates to three and pause before making a decision on hiring an interim manager to fill the seat of William Whitson, whom the commission fired last week.
Jerry Cameron, the former Flagler County administrator who’d lobbied three commissioners and already had the blessing of the fourth to get in the door, was eliminated. So was Kim Carney, the former Flagler Beach city commissioner who put in her name this afternoon, but did not show up at the meeting: the commission chairman called her name when it was her turn to speak.
Going into the meeting, the city’s current acting manager, Rick McFadden, the building inspector, was also a candidate for the interim position, but he withdrew.
In the end, it wasn’t close: the three candidates who made the cut sharply cut themselves away from the rest and spoke as if they could take the reins immediately and with significant familiarity with the sort of issues the city faces. Cameron has county, not city, experience.
The short-list approach was Commissioner James Sherman’s idea: he proposed a pause until Feb. 23, with a narrowed field. The candidates would then meet with department heads, the public–in a town home style setting–and commissioners (one on one). The commission would vote on its choice on Feb. 23. “This is a decision that’s beyond us,” Sherman said.
The three choices: John Drago, Mike Abels and Katrina Powell. All commissioners and the mayor picked the trio for their shortlist, with no hesitation, and one exception: Commission Chairman Ken Bryan, who picked Cameron instead of Drago.
The commission gave each candidate as much time as he or she chose, whether at the podium or by phone (two candidates called in). The candidates summed up their careers and intentions and took a few questions from the commissioners. Thats segment filled most of the 120 minutes of what had been billed as a workshop.
Drago, a former city manager in Longwood, held the podium for 15 minutes, getting into the details of his managerial method, his interactions with commissioners, his approach with budgeting season (he’d start in January with planning sessions and meetings with commissioners, for a budget to be approved in September).
Abels was a city manager for 20 years, notably in Palm Bay and in Deland. He spoke with deliberate precision, focusing exclusively on municipal issues in ways that displayed a breadth of knowledge and experiences, each time illustrated with examples from his long history. He described his role with staff primarily as a facilitator to ensure “good communication and good cooperation.”
To a question from Commissioner Jane Mealy about disaster management, he recalled managing his city during the year of the three hurricanes (2004), plus a tornado through DeLand, enabling him to develop close relationships with the Federal Emergency Management Administration and other agencies, forming a local “crisis team” that met to determine “what was the crisis of the moment.” Coastal erosion? “Not so much coastal,” he said.
Powell is a former city manager in Longwood (“right behind Mr. Drago”), Fort Meade and in Michigan, and a resident of Ormond by the Sea. She broad said her experience suited her for the interim position, with experience in the military for 20 years and work in non-profits and local government, including lobbying and FEMA training to assist in emergency responses. “I believe in being collaborative, team-forward and fluid, I like to make difficult decisions when necessary in a time-sensitive manner,” she said. And she still has connections at FEMA and the local district of the state Department of Transportation, two musical notes to commissioners’ ears. She was also an assistant manager in Deltona during the season of the three hurricanes, when the city got more than 90 inches of rain and threatened over 1,000 homes.
Before Cameron spoke, Bryan claimed Cameroon did not “lobby” for the position, that Bryan himself called Cameron to seek his interest (as was previously reported). But of course Cameron lobbied: no other candidate had the chance to sit down with commissioners ahead of Whitson’s firing and today’s meeting, as Cameron did with Mealy and Commissioner Deborah Phillips, or have a conversation, as he did with Sherman.
“I’ve met with people who have asked to meet with me,” Cameron claimed–again inaccurately: Mealy never asked to meet with him, but was surprised to find Cameron at a restaurant where the owner, John Lulgjuraj (owner of Flagler Beach’s Oceanside Bar and Grill) had told her he had someone she should meet. Mealy felt ambushed. She and Cameron had lunch anyway, and Cameron made his pitch, without explicitly saying he was seeking the manager’s job, though he didn’t need to: There was no reason for him to meet at length with the commissioners other than for the job.
Cameron, who was first up, did not have much to say today at the podium beyond complaining about how he’s been portrayed in the press, other than to tell commissioners what they already know: that an interim position has its own particulars and that he’s done that sort of work a couple of times. The implication was somewhere along the lines of you’d be lucky to have me. He spent much of the rest of the session, as other candidates spoke, staring at the floor from his seat. County Commissioner Dave Sullivan, chiefly instrumental in bringing Cameron to Flagler County a few years ago, sat with him for a while before leaving halfway through the meeting.
John McCue spoke second. He worked some 30 years in government, starting in Miami Dade and serving as county manager and city manager in different Florida communities before retiring two years ago. He’s not interested in consulting or a long-term management contract, “but I still have a lot to offer to a community,” he said. He lives in Orange City near DeLand.
Rick Belhumeur, one of five candidates in the March 7 municipal election, told commissioners they were “going about this all wrong,” by hiring only by looking at resumes, if that. “The last woman that got up said she heard about it at 2:30 this afternoon, so how can you that quickly make a decision.” He proposed retaining an acting city manager, giving commissioners time to study the applicants.
Scott Spradley, another of the candidates, proposed waiting at least a week and giving the candidates a chance at least to meet with the commissioners before a decision is made.
Former Clerk of Court Gail Wadsworth noted Abels’s side career as a professor and his vast experience as manager, but also said she was very impressed by Powell, as seemed to be the public consensus.
A member of the public asked the commissioner whether the chairman could, once he leaves his seat (Bryan chose not to run again, so the next commission meeting will be his last) be the interim.
“I’m not committing suicide,” Bryan said.
Concerned Randi says
Thanks Commissioner Philips for bringing more interim City Manager candidates to the table at tonight’s meeting. The two originally proposed weren’t going to cut it. Nice to see the three that were chosen. Good luck.
PLEASE, City Council, take a good look at the background of these applicants.
For some, ask why there was such turnover in their careers and what reasons they separated their employment.
I am glad to see you eliminated Cameron.
Job well done, now keep it up.
Re: interim City Manager-Guess someone did because I know I did Powell has a lot of baggage ( she now has dropped out ) & Drago too so that leaves one Mike Abel , hope he can hold the fort. Remember everyone vote March 7 ,change is good no Phillips or Belhumeur. Let’s change this town now .Still think Spradley & O’Conner are the ones .
watching from home and they have interviews with no resumes on protentional temp manager & why would we go to Ken Parker again . He’s the one who gave up Mr Whitson . One interviewer stated he gave Flip Flop Phillips his resume but she was to busy having a meet & greet at her bar . Ken Bryan just can’t stop from putting foot into his mouth. States i didn’t make a mistake by hiring Whitson . To my understanding if you had to fire someone for lack of management then it’s a mistake. takes a real person to say “ I made a mistake and it won’t happen again . Just my opinion & I think Ms Powell presented herself very well but need to do a little research. Would love for her get the job & maybe stay on full time . It’s time for a change in commission & city management. please vote
Spadley & O’conner
Ceil Brown says
Huh? Commissioner Phillips had her meet and greet already scheduled yet she was at the meeting. She brought 5 candidates to the table in short order. So uneducated. Run for election if you can do better.
Just by doing a little bit of googling on these candidates, it seems one was terminated as a city manager before and another has questionable actions.
Why did Phillips go back to the same guy that gave us Whitson? Not a smart move Flip Flop!
Sorry that people don’t like Jerry Cameron but he worked for the whole Board of County Commissioners not just one person. He would have been the best choice to help Flagler Beach out until a permanent city manager could be found. There are just too many small minds in Flagler Beach to actually see what is best. Flagler Beach needs a good enema to get rid of all the waste.
Been There says
If Cameron doesn’t want to be played badly in the press, he should stop playing badly. You are judged by the company you keep.
He should follow his buddy, Mullins out. This county needs to be relieved of him permanently. Thank you, Flagler Beach Commission for not entertaining him as an option any further.
Bryan’s quip about suicide was as offensive as it gets. His lack of decorum is sadly, not surprising.
I was deeply disappointed when Commissioner Bryan failed to acknowledge that appointing Whitson was a significant error. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, he stated that Whitson had performed well at the end of the meeting, which is simply not true. This is a classic example of gaslighting. It’s frustrating to see him shirk responsibility for his poor decision, especially since he was the one who chose Whitson for the job. As the person responsible for the appointment, he shares equal responsibility for the poor performance. It’s evident that the public is becoming increasingly negative due to his actions, and he needs to take ownership of his mistakes. It’s time for him to step down from his position.
Well BeachComer ALL the commissioners voted to hire him including Rick Bellhuemer who wants back on the board after being voted out. People in this city were already negative due to the antics of the dynamic duo couple on the board and the Flagler Beach Facebook groups that spew negativity on a daily basis.
In his short time on the board, Bryan has done more for this city than anyone. I don’t blame him for not running again. Flagler Beach just has too many idiots living it.
Enlighten me on what BRYAN did for the city, We have the ugliest park benches in all of Florida and put ashtrays throughout the city to remind children that smoking makes you cool? You must be living in a parallel universe. Oh I forget he approved a 400,000 trashcan pad for the funky pelican restaurant. He is also being sued for disparaging a developer…. He failed to have the drains for the city cleared prior to the storm and it flooded whole neighborhoods, I could go on for hours…
…too many idiots living IN it. May be a good idea to double check your grammar while demeaning the intelligence of others.