In his 13 years on the Flagler County School Board, Andy Dance was big on what he calls “process.” He liked issues to be discussed deliberately, carefully and with time on his and the board’s side, to avoid being blindsided or to stumble into half-baked decisions the board would later regret.
His colleagues may not have always been as process-oriented as he was, but they thrived on his approach, as did the board, which for those dozen-years plus enjoyed remarkable stability and consensus even as it contended with five different superintendents. Dance was involved in hiring four of them in that span. With the last three especially, the board itself was big on “process” even when it knew–as was the case with Jacob Oliva–that a particular appointment was almost certain: he’d become the interim superintendent after a stroke cut short the tenure of his predecessor, Janet Valentine. Valentine had lined him up as his successor, with the board’s approval. But the board still went through a formal if hurried hiring process.
It did so again, taking six months in one case and almost a year in the last, in the hiring of Jim Tager then Cathy Mittelstadt. In every case going back to Bill Delbrugge, the board’s approach paid dividends, its superintendents complementing the board’s approach and often reflecting Dance’s premium on process.
Dance resigned his school board seat last November after his election to the County Commission. At the commission’s last meeting last month, Interim Administrator Jerry Cameron circulated a hard-copy letter to the five commissioner announcing he would resign by June. “It is my intent to try and complete several outstanding items by the end of June, which would allow me to leave at that time,” he wrote. Cameron, who reflexively takes pride and credit for honing successors he describes in extravagant nicespeak, suggested his position could be filled by “several” other members of the administrative staff. He said they could “easily fill the interim position while you determine to proceed with selecting a permanent administrator.”
Cameron’s letter gave commissioners just four months’ warning that they should make that determination–about two months short of the average time it takes for local governments to debate what they want in their next executive, hire a search firm that may help drawing up a job description after soliciting public input, as both Palm Coast and the school board did before hiring their latest executives, broadly advertise the position for several weeks, cull through the applicants, short-listing them, drawing down the list to candidates worth interviewing, holding the interviews, again involving the public, and finally making a choice.
To all that, the Flagler County Commission today said, in effect: Not interested.
Dance apparently reacting to the Cameron letter at the end of today’s commission meeting, brought up the matter of a mere “timeline” for the next administrator.
“Are we working on a timeline for discussing the replacement process for the administrator?” he asked Donald O’Brien, the commission chairman.
“No,” O’Brien said simply. No additional explanation.
“OK. So no discussion about the process?” Dance asked.
“No,” O’Brien said with the same bluntness.
“What’s the process, then?” Dance asked.
“Don’t have a process at this point,” O’Brien said. Other than an abbreviated search for an interim after former Administrator Craig Coffey at the beginning of 2019, neither O’Brien nor any of the current commission members, with Dance’s exception, have been involved in the hiring of a top executive or a county attorney–the only two positions they are responsible for. But O’Brien keeps himself informed, attends other local governments’ meetings, and is well aware of their methods and examples, making his odd stance today that much more surprising–unless commissioners already have choice and expect only to go through the formality of a search before they settle on that choice. Cameron in his hiring of deputy Administrator Jorge Salinas saw whoever filled that position as his successor, and went as far as involving commissioners in the job interviews for that position, with that eventuality in mind. That search never involved the public and was conducted for the most part out of view.
“We don’t have a resignation,” O’Brien continued. “We have a letter from Mr. Cameron giving us an outline of what his thoughts were, but we don’t have a resignation, so we don’t have anything specific to react to, in my mind, as of today.”
Dance was audibly startled. “So we’re waiting for the 90–the official 90-day notice?” he asked.
“I don’t really have any desire to talk about it until we have something on the board,” O’Brien said. “But I mean, whatever the pleasure is of all the other commissioners.”
The other commissioners were not interested in moving forward. One of them put the commission’s proclivity for doing nothing–a proclivity that has landed the commission in innumerable morasses and fiascos–in explicit terms: “I don’t think we need to do anything,” Hansen said.
“I’m not being a smart aleck, I’m just answering your question,” O’Brien told Dance.
“OK, no, I get it,” Dance said, off balance. He’s been little used to that kind of nonchalance from board members he serves with. “I’m just still–I’ll have to process. Because I would like to at least in my mind having a timeline would be appropriate. But…”
Dance paused. He sighed. He went on to a different topic. So did the commission.
Roy Longo says
County Commissioner Greg Hanson: “I don’t think we need to do anything,” That should be your mission statement.
Yes, as you resign and walk out the door. Well said!
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Dance only commissioner who gives a rat’s ass about all of us in my opinion. Jerry has been trying to save us big bucks with his heartfelt efforts to search for a qualified replacement for when he departs, Jerry has taken the bull by the horn and tried to get us out of the many messes caused by Coffey ( and his cohort Al Hadeed). Not one commissioner has accomplished anything on their own since Jim Darby and Hutch King , except Charlie Ericksen whom everyone mostly ignored…..
Who cares about the dangerous rat and drug infested old hotel across the street from Plantation Bay and next to the Reserve? Not one damn commissioner for years since 2016 when I began to complain.. – just Jerry( and he is determined to get this POS torn down). Bings Landing Lawsuit- not one commissioner even cares how much All Hadeed’s screw up ( my opinion) has cost us – and its all public record…. Not a one – Along comes Andy and I thank him with all my heart and I thank Jerry for trying to line up a replacement we can be proud of and one who won’t lead us down a path of fireceitnancial destruction like Coffey did.
I listened to Andy this morning and fell off my chair at O’Brien’s and the other’s responses. It is very scary that 4 of 5 commissioners don’t seem to give a damn about us – and don’t kid yourself about Mullins and fiber optics – Yes the west part of our is far overdue in getting proper internet service which Commissioner Mullins has known about before he got (s) elected- for him about votes and another business venture for his personal profit ( in my non factual gut opinion)
Andy is a breath of fresh air and I pray he keeps breathing in lots more fresh air because I am sick and tired of the hot air from the rest of the other 4. Thanks Andy and thank you Jerry for trying to save us from another Coffey….
Palm Coast Citizen says
Why wouldn’t they even entertain a process at this point, though? We’re always waiting for the last moment, making rash decisions given the impending timeline, and then having to do damage control based on those decisions. Even just some loose thoughts on what to avoid would be useful.
Can't believe it says
What are they hiding? You know they already have another one of their back door deals going, and they’re just not letting “the new guy” in on it. Hadeed’s probably already got the contract drawn up. They have a long history of making inept (wrong) decisions. If it wasn’t for Dance, they would have given away the boat ramp at Pamela Drive. I hope Dance continues doing a good job that he was elected to do.
Just saying says
How do we clone Andy Dance? Thoughtful, process driven planning and action is so needed by this commission and county! The fact they don’t even recognize there is a problem is even more unsettling. Please people, keep these things in mind at election time. Just because you hear a name you recognize doesn’t mean you should vote for that person. They need to be qualified to lead this county!
Could NOT agree more!! I am not even a Republican anymore and can say that Andy Dance brings a moderate, intelligent, rational leadership to this BOCC that is so badly needed!
John Stove says
The problem lands squarely at the feet of Mr. Cameron. Just submit a letter of resignation with a hard date already , not “I intend to resign”….you are either resigning or you are not. With a “I intend to resign” BS letter, he can always say “oh, I changed my mind and I want to stay on another year”.
In effect what Mr. Cameron is doing is a disservice to all of those he serves as until he gives formal notice with a hard deadline and his resignation is accepted, you cant move forward to seek out his replacement.
Never ends says
Basically all the commissioners besides Dance are implying we do not need a process because we will most likely replace Cameron from within. This is a horrible idea as everyone still here was under Coffey and they have Coffey ideas/tendencies. Salinas is too new and should not be considered as a replacement. The right thing to do for the sake of the county’s future is to find an outside replacement, if not then the county will continue to decline in all aspects.