An email from Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon to the city council about his replacement is not sitting well with Mayor Milissa Holland and other members of the council.
“I do not tell Jim how to manager his employees and I do not need him to tell me how to hire our next city manager,” Holland said today, reacting to the Landon email, sent on June 27. Holland would have brought up the matter at Tuesday’s workshop but was headed to a conference on entrepreneurship in Kansas City and is missing that meeting. The issue will be a subject of discussion next week.
“It was disturbing to me that our city manager took it upon himself to have conversations with the recruiting firm that the city council retained,” Holland said, referring to the way Landon told the search firm the council hired on June 5 that it would not begin its work until he would decide what the timetable would be. Landon also suggested he could be part of the search firm’s discussions with council members.
Not so, Holland said. “I felt he was overstepping his authority and it certainly is not his role to select or be part of the selection process of the next city manager,” Holland said, in the strongest language she’s used in reference to Landon to date, though Holland has been more visibly asserting her authority on the council while sidelining Landon’s.
Nevertheless the outline of Landon’s retirement timeline remains unchanged.
It’s been a year since the council decided it’s time for Landon to go, and a little less than a year since Landon took his seat at the council’s table to make clear he would steer the manner and timing of his exit. The council largely let him, with two attempts to end his tenure falling short of a third vote.
Landon, now in his 12th year as manager, told the council he would be ready to retire around the time of his granddaughter’s graduation from high school locally, which would be May 2019. August 2019 has also been a recurring time frame. Council members have considered firing Landon but have been held back by the cost: a severance package that, like his pay package, approaches a quarter million dollars. Knowing that, Landon has held the council hostage to his demands, whether it’s the timing or the manner of his replacement.
On June 5, the council approved hiring Strategic Government Resources, a search firm, to lead the hiring process. That $28,000 contract was signed later in June. (See the full contract here.) The search firm told the council it could have a new manager in place within four to six months. That means a new manager could be in place by the new year.
Landon told SGR that would not be the case. “During his presentation to Council, SGR Senior Vice President Doug Thomas stated that the recruitment process for the City Manager is expected to take approximately 4 to 6 months from start to typically when the new Manager is on board,” Landon wrote council members on June 27. “Accordingly, SGR will not start the recruitment process until my future retirement date is finalized and within the recruitment timeframe. I plan to discuss my retirement plans with my family over the coming months and coordinate with City Council and SGR in early 2019 on a transition plan.”
That was news to council members who thought Landon’s retirement plans were not in question. “It was my understanding that it was the graduation of his granddaughter, so my recollection was that that’s when his retirement would occur, he said that very clearly on the record,” Holland said.
Council member Heidi Shipley was not surprised by the email. “He’s going to run the show. I’m not even sure he’s going to leave in August ’19,” Shipley said. “He has nobody opposing anything he does, nobody saying, hey, wait a minute, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to go.” Shipley said she first heard of the August 2019 retirement date from Bill Reischmann, the council’s attorney. “I think he’s going to go at a time he feels comfortable with, not a time we feel comfortable with. It pretty much says it in that email, he’s going to let us know, we’re not going to let him know.”
Shipley had supported firing Landon previously and doubts the mayor’s intentions now. “I would stand up and applaud her if she would stand up to him,” Shipley said of Holland, “but she’s strong willed on her own, maybe she wants him there. But I know they’re not going to make any major decisions with me there, it’s going to be after November. They’ll have Jon Netts there, and hopefully [John] Tipton, because I think Tipton is good.”
Shipley opted not to run again for her seat, which is being contested by former Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts—who was among the council members who hired Landon in 2007 and approved his contract—and Jack Howell, the retired Marine and leader of Teens in Flight, the flight school. Nobile resigned his seat in May. Palm Coast attorney Vincent Lyon was appointed in his place but Lyon will step down after the election.
In his June 27 email, Landon said Thomas, the SGR vice president, wanted to have conversations with council members “to discuss the process and to become more familiar with your thoughts on the ideal candidate,” conversations that will be updated with returning and any new Council Members following the upcoming city election when SGR formally commences the search process.” In other words, Landon does not see the recruiting company starting the search until after the November election, if not even later: searches don’t generally begin during the ho9liday season. That pushes the process to January.
“Obviously the plan is to try to coordinate it with Jim Landon’s retirement,” Council member Bob Cuff said this afternoon, “but as I think I’ve said in the past I don’t consider that a blank check or whatever you want to call it, for things to drag on indefinitely.” Cuff sees the next few months as time to set the parameters of the search with the search firm. “I expect that will take some time but I don’t think it will take 12 months, and I would like to talk to them about what they think is a reasonable length of time.”
Cuff said he was picturing “a mid-year transition” in 2019—with the stated intent to avoid paying Landon severance. “Since he’d announced he was planning to retire anyway it seems to me we can save the city that expense,” Cuff said. “I want to hear more from him about his plans I don’t think that necessarily dictates what we do but if his goals are compatible with our goals which is to find the best replacement possible, to me that’s the best way to do it. If there’s foot-dragging or whatever you want to call it, then we’d have to reconsider it, because we do have a search firm now.”
Another concern: Waiting so long that an ideal candidate might be snapped up by another city before Palm Coast gets its chance—which is what just happened during Bunnell’s search for a city manager: the city had to possibly settle for a lesser choice when its top choice took a job elsewhere. But the Landon email keeps all matters of timing in his hands.
“This email definitely threw me for a loop,” Holland said. “We’re going to have to discuss with the council on how to proceed to move forward.”
Here we go again – fire him, get rid of him, give the City a Manager who is looking out for the residence needs and not lining the pocket of a City Manager who does nothing but works his own agenda and disrupts progress.
This town is a circus
Concerned Citizen says
This is annoying.
In the Public Work force if you don’t do your job and over step your bounds you get fired. Fire the guy and put an interim in his place. Then start your search.
Stop kissing this guys ass and get some back bone. Landon has had his day and needs to be gone.
What kind of info does Landon have on the Mayor and Council that makes them cower from him?
Why are we hiring a firm to find a manager. Joe Forte lives in Palm Coast. He was my Fire chief and he was assistant county manager of Seminole county and was interm county manger of Seminole. He is the current manager of Holly Hill. Lets not waste more tax payer money on this BS. He lives hear and know the community and what we need.
Fernando Melendez says
Cuff is right, plus another concern is waiting so long that an ideal candidate might be snapped up by another city before Palm Coast gets its chance. say goodbye to Landon , and move on.
John Brady says
Hold on Heidi, do not forget the Colonel. Jon Netts will give Landon anything Landon wants. There has been reasons to let Landon go for “cause”but the feckless Council past and present have let him have his way time and time again.
Time for change
Percy's mother says
Why is the mayor surprised and miffed that Landon has overstepped his bounds AGAIN? This is par for the course with him, AND I fault the mayor and the city council for allowing him to have overstepped his bounds so many times in the past. Now he thinks he has carte blanche.
Get some guts and put the guy in his place.
Matanzas resident says
Fire him now. Why do any of them listen to that blow hard Landon anymore? Get rid of him.
Rob Jr says
It does not take an advanced degree in nuclear physics to manage this podunk town.
Hire someone who can grow into the job and to heck with that ideal candidate BS.
Grow into the job is another word for start at a moderate to low rate of pay.
He has NO education and understanding as to how to run a business…
Kim Pandich Gridley says
Joe Forte? Is he a candidate for this job? This is a man who fought to save our county from burning up in 1998 and then came to talk to my then 6th grade class about how scary it was. I would vote for him in a heartbeat. He is a good man and even his kids have served as firefighters. He can certainly handle any problem we can throw at him – he’s already handled the life and death issue for the county.
Nancy N. says
No sitting council member will get a vote from me on election day if Landon still has a job then. This is absolute insanity.
He’s holding PC hostage. Pay the ransom / severance and send him on his way! It’ll be worth it just to get rid of him.
Ben Hogarth says
As someone who comes from a family who has been invested in Palm Coast for more than a decade, entertain if you will, this literary and colorful analysis of where the community currently stands…
Palm Coast is at a crossroads. It can continue down the path it has been led for well over the last decade, or it can go back to what was once a promising young community of unparalleled growth and economic development. The Landon era has been mostly about surviving the recession and more so about complacency. His war on the County to see which dog will be the Alpha has done nothing positive for either. It was an ego show and 21st Century governments do not need this 20th Century mentality.
Personally, I am ready for the “next step” in my own management and professional career in municipal government. I’m relatively young, extremely well educated, experienced, underemployed, and I have one quality that sets me above so many others – I actually listen to more than the sound of my own voice. I believe everyone has something to offer and that the measure of ones quality is not just what they do, but what they do believing they won’t be caught.
Good Leadership isn’t complicated. It requires an open mind and a firm resolve. Great leadership requires a little extra, but listening to your people is essential. It saddens me to think the Palm Coast Council continues to kick the proverbial can down the road – while scolding the overstayed villain.
There was a time when Palm Coast would have attracted someone like me… if not as a potential City Manager, then certainly somewhere else in the private or public sector. Suffice it to say, it no longer does. The politics are disheartening and the commitment and/or resolve for change does not permeate from the voting residents to the dais. I truly feel bad for those who still live in Palm Coast, they have little in the way of growth and economic prosperity to look forward to. The increase in hard crimes is no doubt, entirely attributable to the condition-makers. Historians will tell you, decadence in truth, is formed from one other word – “decline.”
I assure you Council Members, whether you know of me or not, your inaction turns away well-intentioned aspiring managers like myself, and attracts the ‘cockroaches’ of the industry. I’m of course, referring to the men and women who look for nothing more than a set of politicians afraid of their own shadows. This sort of political ‘makeup’ allows for the cockroaches to survive any ‘nuclear’ fallout. It allows them infest and dig-in for a very long time.
If the metaphorical vernacular has lost you, allow me to rephrase – YOUR INABILITY AS A COUNCIL TO FIRE JIM LANDON OVER THE YEARS AND ESPECIALLY MOST RECENTLY, WILL PUSH WELL-INTENTIONED CANDIDATES AWAY AND ATTRACT SELF-SERVING EGOMANIACS.
Jim Landon represents a generation of managers in Florida who simply need to “go.” The golden parachute, “Teflon-Don,” fat-cats need to be stamped out wherever they still reside. They put the “tic(k)s” in Poli-tics and it’s time for a new generation of aspiring leaders to make a real change and an actual difference. The people of Palm Coast want to be proud of their community again.
So long as this Council, much like their county counterparts, remain indecisive and weak, Palm Coast will continue to be run by self-serving actors. Please look internally Palm Coast – you may have lost someone like me as a potential future candidate, but there is still plenty hope to find someone who will genuinely care about bringing a meaningful change. Unfortunately, the headhunting process has only further enabled and enticed the wrong-sort into applying. You will have to take care and really ask tough questions to discover who are the perverters of democracy and who are the purveyors of truth.
Don’t set yourselves back another decade. Life is far too short for that and the youth of Palm Coast deserve an opportunity to experience the best life has to offer. Don’t allow conservativism – the root of all decadence and decline, to govern your futures. Embrace change and mold it… boldly.
Less you defer such boldness to the Jim Landon’s of the world, at your own expense and peril.
David S. says
Wake up city council fire the idiot now. This city is a joke……
Thank you so much Mayor Holland for final standing up to Landon, he is way over his head thinking he is in control of his replacement, as others wrote in this article he needs to go. It is long overdue, the taxpayers in this town that voted for you have asked in many times to let him go and now.
And, please we also asked that we do not want Netts on our counsel. We want refreshing new faces with new idea’s out with the old in with the new, PLEASE.
Trailer Bob says
Ben, I was impressed until the end. Good writer and speaker with some nice over-extended statement. But in the end you show our hand by eliminating one of two major political parties by taking a crack at Conservatives. Unfortunately for you, You have thrown your true cards on the table.
This is ridiculous, just get rid of Landon.
Dennis McDonald says
The picture says it all…………priceless !
Flagler Flyer says
TO THE CITY COUNCIL: You all know that Landon is not going to retire and he will get his severance anyway. Time after time the council plays the fool and Landon manages to do whatever he wants. It is well past time for the council to do its elected duty.
Forte’s background is not impressive. He earns big $ and Holly Hill looks like a dump. What has he done? Has he any experience in the real world?
Hey Heidi, Counting your chickens before they hatch??? you must be a fan of Hillary look what happened there!!!! GO JACK HOWELL!!! TIME FOR NEW BLOOD NEW DIRECTION NO MORE RETREADS!!!
Ben Hogarth says
Trailer Bob, I’d like to state for the record, that conservativism is not directed at “Republicans” as a political party. Although I am not a Republican, I do not generalize the GOP as a “conservative” party like mainstream media.
In political science, we study “conservativism” as a social philosophy dedicated to keeping things the same or even restoring things to the way “they once were.” It’s backwards thinking and has been proven time and again to lead to economic decline, not prosperity.
The point was to serve as a reminder that complacency is the root of decadence – and it stems from a philosophy of conservativism. Progress on the other hand, requires new ideas and typically, new people.
Remember – what you see and hear on television, is not reality. Government and governance is far more complex than left or right.
Born and Raised Here says
I’m sure there are hundreds of public adminstrators with Resumes in hand waiting to take over to move Palm Coast into the 21st century.
USA Lover says
I’ve been gone for a while. Damn. Landon is still sucking on that Palm Coast tit. Is he ever going to leave?
No town employee should hold any position where he or she can not be released from. When a said employee starts telling the people of the town when or when not he will leave his job, it’s time to relieve that person of their duties. I have lived here for over 3 years now and all I see is a bunch of politicians that are more concerned with their own prestige than they are the good of the town, I believe it’s time to clean house top to bottom.
Although I live in Flagler Beach, and not Palm Coast, it’s hard to believe that, in this day of “at will” employment, anyone would write a contract with such a ($250,000) severance package. Flaglerlive, maybe I missed it, and maybe it is worth repeating. Who wrote and signed off on such a contract for Landon.
I most certainly agree, having “anyone” continuing to command such power, especially as a lame duck, is extremely detrimental to any governing body. No professional, self respecting HR specialist would advise you to keep Landon on staff one moment after you voted him out. Just pay the ridiculous $250,000 and escort Landon permanently out of his office TODAY. Also, make absolutely certain the next contracts for any employee are much better negotiated, so that you will never be in this position again!
Oh, and by the way. . . county commissioners. . . Coffey needs to be next!
There are hundreds of Sea Ray employees that are about or have lost their jobs. There must be a manager in that group that is looking for a job and willing to be trained just to stay in the area. Why spend all that money on a contracting firm when there are people all over Flagler County that might have the qualifications and be willing to be trained. That is really where the Council should really start to look.
The council should have fired Landon long ago. We were much better off when ITT ran Palm Coast.
Southern Man says
Just from the picture alone your city manager looks as if he really doesn’t give a crap about anyone else there, and that he’s got everyone by the nuts and just keep squeezing them, the tail is wagging the dog here folks…
Council members need to man and woman up and cut the line, save the money on a headhunting firm and hire someone from the area who knows the area (i’m sure there are plenty of quality home grown individuals that know the area well and would do a much better job for less then half the salary), next time around try a short term contract with a council option for the next year based on last years performance (like they do in the nba) or else you’ll get stuck again, or just keep sticking your head(s) in the sand and all the problems will just go away like a bad toothache…