Thursday, March 23, 2023

National search needed for City Manager hiring: April 25, 2010 St. Augustine Record Guest Column

Congratulations to St. Augustine City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E., who is retiring, after some thirteen years in the job and 25 years with the City. 

Fellow city employees once called him the Minister of Propaganda, so adept was he at PR.  He so flattered five other-directed City Commissioners that Commission in 2010 considered no other candidates and rejected a national search.  

So too, did St. Johns County Commission in 2019-2020 and again in 2023, hire unqualified County Administrator HUNTER SINCLAIR CONRAD without a search or background investigation or other applicants, heeding in 2020 the "advice" of CONRAD's buddy, CHRISTIAN WHITEHURST, who rejected a national search because "we" might hire someone who didn't know the difference between Hastings and Ponte Vedra.  Installed as a County Commissioner with developers' support, CHRISTIAN WHITEHURST violated Sunshine law and illegally negotiated CONRAD's quarter million dollar annual contract renewal in 2023 in secret. 

The price of discrimination is too high: wealthy Dull Republicans like Senator-developer TRAVIS JAMES HUTSON and their dodgy corporations are constantly dictating policy, with no independent Inspector General, no Ombuds, and no accountability, as our nature and history are destroyed by corporate greed.

We must have a national search for the next St. Augustine City Manager.

No excuses.

Civil rights laws militate in favor of considering all qualified applicants. 

Anything else is corruption. 

Enough flummery, dupery and nincompoopery on discriminatory hiring practices in our town.

St. Augustine City Commission will discuss the method of selecting a new City Manager it its Monday, March 27, 2023 meeting at 5 PM.

Here is my April 25, 2010 St. Augustine Record Guest Column: 

Monday, April 26, 2010

St. Augustine Record Guest Column: 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] 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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