Delray’s new city manager and more

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Cooper wins it

There were two big stories last week in Delray Beach from the search for a city manager. One was the city commission’s choice to be Delray’s CEO. The other? We’ll get to that in a minute.

From five finalists, the commission unanimously chose Don Cooper, going with experience over potential. Cooper ran Port St. Lucie for nearly 20 years and was manager of two small cities in Colorado before that. He has more experience than even Terry Stewart, who has been Delray’s interim city manager since June. Neither Assistant Broward County Administrator Roberto Hernandez nor Assistant Boca Raton City Manager Mike Woika has had a top job, however qualified they might be. The lone out-of-state candidate, Andrea McCue, had no Florida experience.

Not giving Stewart the job permanently will mean a delay as Cooper familiarizes himself with the staff and the city. But the budget was finished in September, the city attorney’s office is handling pension negotiations, and any outsider would have needed some orientation time. Cooper estimates that he will need about six months.

In his letter to the city’s headhunting firm, Cooper was less specific than other finalists about his assessment of Delray Beach. He said, “The challenges in Delray Beach are exciting and daunting but one (sic) I feel prepared for and look forward to having the opportunity to address.” At 63, Cooper also seems to acknowledge that he would like to make this his last stop, calling the job “an outstanding career topper, in a community that will lead the way.” He also refers to being able to “finish my public service career in an outstanding community.”

Of his approach to management, Cooper wrote that his staff in Port St. Lucie, if asked, “would say I was demanding, supportive, and fair. I feel it is extremely important to create an environment where the staff and the policymakers are challenged and achieve the goals they set for themselves. That they constantly strive to be better and make their community and the organization better. My team members would say I’m protective, blunt, politically aware but not political and maybe push too hard to achieve the goals of the organization.”

It does remain for Delray Beach to work out a contract with Cooper. He noted that he made $161,000 in Port St. Lucie, though that was four years ago. The target salary for the Delray Beach job is $165,000. Cooper currently works in Port St. Lucie for the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies as chief financial officer.

Where is the world is Al?

That other big news about Cooper’s selection was that just three of Delray Beach’s five commissioners made the selection. Adam Frankel and Al Jacquet weren’t there on Thursday for the candidate interviews or on Friday for the special meeting and vote. Mayor Cary Glickstein and Commissioners Jordana Jarjura and Shelly Petrolia formed that unanimous majority.

Choosing a manager is the most important decision any city commissioner or city council member makes. Nothing else comes close. Going back three decades, I can’t remember a single elected official in any of Palm Beach County’s larger cities missing such a vote, let alone two commissioners missing it.

Frankel says he had planned to attend the interviews and the meeting, but that they were rescheduled for when he had planned a trip that he called “not a social occasion.” He forwarded me an Oct. 15 email to the city’s human resources director saying that Glickstein had asked that the interview and meeting be delayed one week.

In an email, Frankel said the change came “without checking the availability of the commission members, or at the least I was never asked.” Glickstein said city staff members were working the schedule around several conflicts, and that he did not know that Frankel’s would take him away for the whole week. Frankel did interview the finalists last Monday. His rankings couldn’t count because he wouldn’t be at the Friday meeting.

The other commissioners, though, at least knew that Frankel would be absent. When Jacquet didn’t show for the interviews Thursday or the Friday meeting, the other commissioners were surprised.

I reached Jacquet by phone Monday, and he tried to offer an explanation, but it wasn’t a very good one. “I had to take care of some other things,” he said. What sort of “other things?” I asked. “That is not anyone’s business,” Jacquet responded. When I asked him again to be specific, he said, “That’s low.”

Jacquet added that there are “hundreds of commission meetings”—actually, there are about two dozen regular meetings a year—and that all commissioners miss a couple here and there. When I tried to question him further, Jacquet hung up.

Jacquet is a lawyer, and he said couldn’t talk longer because he was busy in court. That was a strange answer, since the courts were closed Monday in observance of Veterans Day. Also, Glickstein owns a development company, Jarjura is a lawyer for a firm in Fort Lauderdale and Petrolia is a Realtor. All of them must mix work time and commission time.

Jacquet narrowly won reelection last March, by fewer than 300 votes over Chris Davey. Jacquet likely got that margin because of third-party mailers to Democratic precincts from a Tallahassee group that falsely linked Davey to Gov. Scott.

Delray residents hardly have gotten their money’s worth from Jacquet since then. First, he voted to modify Delray Beach’s loan to the developers of the Auburn Trace housing project—a change that the chief financial officer said would harm the city. Pushing for the loan modification was former State Rep. Mack Bernard, a Jacquet political ally. At the next meeting, the commission—with Jacquet absent—rescinded the decision.

Then Jacquet, with Frankel, refused to fire former City Manager Louie Chapman for cause, after Chapman had misled the commission—his bosses. Now Jacquet has gone AWOL on choosing a manager, even though Jacquet showed up when the commission hired Chapman in December 2012. If he won’t take the job seriously, maybe Jacquet should consider resigning.

Money talks

Well before Election Day, many voters were fed up with all the negative TV commercials in the governor’s race. And just how many ads were on the air?

I have heard that in the final days, helped by about $12 million of his own money, Gov. Scott was running 12,000 ads per week in Florida, a media buy larger than in the presidential races of 2008 and 2012.

Signs of the time

Another thing South Floridians hate about elections is all the campaign signs, many of which are still up days after the election. At Wednesday’s meeting, the Boca Raton City Council will discuss an ordinance to ride the city of some of that campaign clutter.

Unlike some cities, Boca Raton allows campaign signs along its right-of-ways. (The state and county don’t.) The proposed ordinance would allow placement of such signs only within 100 feet and 200 feet of a polling place on Election Day and near an early voting site during the early voting period. The only early voting site this year was the old downtown library. The signs would have to be removed no later than three days after the election, rather than the current seven days.

The Boca Raton City Council can’t do anything about congressional gridlock on taxes and immigration reform, but there likely is bipartisan agreement to combat what the ordinance calls this election “blight.”

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You can email Randy Schultz at randy@bocamag.com

For more City Watch blogs, click here.About the Author

Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.

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Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.