Monday, May 08, 2017

HCN Supports National Search for the Next St. Augustine City Manager

When the next City Manager is hired, let there be a national search and citizen involvement. Historic City News agrees.

Is city manager preparing for his inevitable resignation?
May 8, 2017 Historic City News

Historic City News has observed one of the most dysfunctional city boards, overpaid middle-managers, and poor community consultants administered by arguably one of the least qualified, slap-on-the-back, city managers in recent history. But according to an announcement brought with little public fanfare before Monday night’s regular meeting of the St Augustine City Commission, John P Regan, a public engineer, is using his fair share of convoluted double-speak, to propose major swaths of reduction to his responsibilities going forward.

It has been suggested that Vice-Mayor Todd Neville wants to spread his wings a bit further; ironic from the commissioner who spent his first two years in office telling the people’s mayor, Nancy Shaver, just how inappropriate it was for her to be involved in the day-to-day executive roles of her elected office.

In an organizational memo obtained by Historic City News on Friday, in preparation for tonight’s full commission meeting, it was observed that It was very hard to follow in terms of what the responsibilities are and what the reporting structure is.

For clarity, management should include, at a minimum, an organizational chart along with job responsibilities– and it all needs to be published in advance on the city website.

Vice Mayor Neville has been prattling on for two years about what he refers to as “succession planning”; however, it’s vital to define, in uniformly understood terms, what he’s talking about since “succession planning”, in a formal way, is done only by very large organizations– if it is done at all.

Does the meaning of “succession planning” for us mean “employee development”, “training”, “skill development”, “cross training” such as program management certification, or “robust recruiting strength”?

I would define the term more carefully, since succession planning is often understood to be lining up the next CEO — and that approach is now most often viewed as only useful for smaller non-profits and small closely held businesses.

From the 30,000-ft level, it looks a lot like what the city manager is doing is freeing himself from a lot of responsibility (without a reduction in pay) and passing off a lot of responsibility to the junior city manager, Tim Burchfield, (without an increase in pay). That won’t work, nor is it the privilege of the city manager to establish his own replacement — only the city commission has that authority under the charter.

If Regan is ready to call it quits, or Neville has his eye on that job when his term in office expires next year, get it out in the open so the people who actually decide how to proceed can do so instead of wasting time talking in hypotheticals.

Since the Bill Harriss regime (from whose seed Regan, Burchfield, Ste Claire, Piggott and others emerged) it seems that some people in local government have forgotten who they work for. We need a national search for our new city manager — not one owing a lot of local political debt and one who clearly is responsive to local residents, the other members of the Board of Commissioners, and generally carries out the direction of the mayor and commissioners, guided by best practices, not their own ego and self-enriching agenda.

This item will be discussed tonight.

From St. Augustine Record
Posted April 25, 2010 12:07 am
Let citizens help in city manager selection

It's another beautiful day in a beautiful place. It's time to appreciate better St. Augustine's strengths and to let freedom ring.

Hiring a new city manager and planning for four upcoming historic celebrations gives St. Augustinians a chance to let democracy work and to invite the world to visit us.

In particular, the announced retirement of the current city manager provides an excellent opportunity for the people of St. Augustine to be heard about what we want our government to become in the future. Commissioners need to hear from citizens about the qualifications for city manager. Should there be a national search? Should we encourage all qualified people, including women and minorities, to apply? Should we encourage people with experience in non-profit organizations and the business sector? Should we ask candidates to study the city and propose solutions? My answers to these four questions are yes, yes, yes and yes.

We need a new city manager who believes in human rights, environmental protection and citizen participation, who empowers employees to think and suggest and (yes) "blow the whistle" when necessary. We need a city government with a whistleblower protection policy and a policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation (only the Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County currently has both, out of all of the governmental units in St. Johns County). We need a city manager who is compassionate with people and passionate about ending the divisions in our community. Let's write a job description and appoint a diverse search committee look for a new city manager we can be proud of, who will work for all the people, not just a few.

Four historic celebrations are rapidly approaching -- the 500th anniversary of Spanish Florida (2013), 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, made possible by a filibuster broken thanks to St. Augustine activists (2014), 450th anniversary of St. Augustine (2015) and 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (2016).

When Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar appoints members of the 450th Commemoration Commission, local citizens will be empowered to tell the federal government how we want to celebrate these anniversaries.

My answer: a St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway (See Let's make St. Augustine the place where families take their children to learn about our history and our environment, encouraging everyone, particularly African-American and Hispanic families to visit St. Augustine and learn about our city's and nation's history. A park will increase property values while increasing income from higher-spending historic and environmental tourism. A park will help protect inviolate forever at least five current state parks; better protect St. Johns River Water Management District lands; restore threatened wetlands and wildlife habitat; preserve endangered species (like sea turtle and Anastasia Island Beach Mouse); protect our coasts from erosion; protect our homes from flooding and hurricanes; and provide better jobs at better wages.

National parks are a uniquely American idea, which capture and preserve America's history and nature and make them available to everyone. Parks begin with the dreams of passionate local residents, as shown by Ken Burns' 12-hour PBS series ("Our National Parks -- America's Best Idea").

It is up to us. Let us resolve to learn from the history of our city and the National Parks. The park promises solutions to our economic and environmental problems. Let's respect our visitors by presenting effectively our fascinating history and beautiful environment -- showing them off to the world, while preserving them forever!

Let every voice be heard. Let the celebrations begin. As JFK said, "Here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own."


Ed Slavin [was then] chief information officer of Global Wrap LLC, former editor of the Appalachian Observer (Clinton, Tenn.), a graduate of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and Memphis State University Law School, and author of the blog, He first proposed the St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway on Nov. 13, 2006.

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