Delray: The Top Five Finalists
On Friday, Delray Beach city commissioners are scheduled to choose the next city manager. They will interview the five finalists individually today and as a group on Friday, as part of a special meeting. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the finalists, in alphabetical order.
PRO: Among the finalists, Cooper has the most experience not just running a city but running a Florida city—Port St. Lucie. At nearly 175,000, Port St. Lucie has nearly three times Delray Beach’s population. Cooper was manager from 1991 to 2010, and helped to turn a sprawling subdivision into a real city. While Cooper was manager, Port St. Lucie created commercial areas and upgraded services.
Cooper’s triumph was completion of a water/sewer service throughout the city. Many residents opposed the project, because the city assessed them for the hook-ups, but the work was essential. Cooper knows all the basics of local government in Florida. Even a newspaper reporter who covered Cooper during some turbulent times said good things about him to Delray’s headhunter firm.
CON: This year, Port St. Lucie unloaded the building the city had financed in 2009 to serve as headquarters for the Digital Domain video animation company. The finance director estimated that Port St. Lucie will pay $39 million through 2041 for a building the city doesn’t own.
As Cooper says, he did the recruiting and not the deal, but he believed that the company had “expressed a commitment” to Port St. Lucie. Digital Domain went bankrupt, and with that went the promised jobs.
Cooper admits he can be “a little pushy.” He also can be more than a little sensitive. In 1999, miffed over a delayed raise, he resigned, and then returned after the city council gave him some love. Also, The Palm Beach Post reported in 2003 that Cooper got special treatment from the police department—which he supervised—when he faced a domestic violence charge.
PRO: He is assistant administrator for Broward County, the second-largest county in Florida. Before that, he was assistant city manager in Coral Springs, which at roughly 120,000 people is also much larger than Delray Beach. Having dealt with issues on that scale, Hernandez seems capable of handling matters on a Delray scale. Except for three years in Atlanta, all his relevant experience is in South Florida. Of himself, Hernandez writes, “There is no ‘dirt’ on me. I live a clean, simply life, prefer to tell things as I see it, and sleep well at night.”
CON: Hernandez never has been a manager. Delray Beach may not be Miami, but it’s a full-service city that makes plenty of demands on the chief executive. Many of the city’s department heads, as well as the assistant city manager, have started in the last few months. Wouldn’t it make more sense to pick someone who has been in charge? As for that Broward experience, Hernandez lists work on the county’s airport and sports/entertainment arena. Neither applies to Delray Beach.
PRO: She is the administrator for Lancaster (Pa.) County, southwest of Philadelphia, which has about 520,000 people. She’s had the job for 10 years, serving at the pleasure of elected county commissioners. She kept her job through the recession, which means that she must have talent and political skills. McCue told the headhunter that she wants to move to Florida because her daughter attends college here and likely will stay after graduating.
CON: McCue may be the county administrator, but those county commissioners have a lot more executive authority than, say, city commissioners in Delray, according to the Lancaster County website. In fact, it refers to McCue as the “Chief Clerk.”
In addition, some of McCue’s work has involved Lancaster County’s jail. That is not relevant to Delray Beach. She would need the most adjustment, since Pennsylvania’s system of government is nothing like Florida’s. Delray hired its previous manager from Connecticut, where the system is also much different. Louie Chapman lasted a year and a half.
PRO: He’s been the interim city manager since June. Much of the turmoil inside City Hall from Chapman’s last few months has subsided. With so many other new people in top positions, why switch, now that Stewart’s leadership style may have taken hold?
Stewart has been manager of two cities in Florida—Cape Coral, which is much larger than Delray, and Fort Myers Beach, which is much smaller. He was forced out in both cases, but he makes a persuasive case that the problem each time was municipal politics, not his competence. He would need no time to familiarize himself with Delray Beach and the city staff.
CON: By picking Stewart, the commission could be settling for someone just because he’s convenient. Chapman became the subject of an Office of Inspector General investigation, which concluded that he had misled not only the commission but also OIG investigators. He wrongly scheduled for a March meeting of a lame-duck commission an item the mayor had asked him to delay. The new commission had to rescind approval of the item, which the chief financial officer said would have been horrible for the city. How hard can it have been for Stewart to look better? Has he been holding off on any tough decisions, to keep morale as high as possible?
PRO: He’s the guy next door. He’s been the assistant city manager in Boca Raton for 10 years, and he ran the utilities department in Boca before that. You can’t get more basic in terms of city services than water and sewer. There’s no reason to wonder why Woika hasn’t been promoted in the last decade. Above him are Deputy City Manager George Brown and City Manager Leif Ahnell, both long-termers who aren’t going anywhere. Woika would know the differences between Delray Beach and Boca Raton and how Delray could use the comparison most favorably. Woika also has an MBA.
CON: Woika may get raves from Boca’s mayor and others, but, like Hernandez, he hasn’t been in charge anywhere. Is he ready for all the demands that go with being the boss? Would he bring a style of management better suited to Boca Raton than to Delray Beach?
Mayor Cary Glickstein lamented what he considered the lack of an obvious “superstar” among the finalists. A little perspective is in order.
In 1990, the commission made David Harden the manager. Harden served for 22 years, and for most of that time he served very well. Among other things, Harden hired as police chief Richard Overman, who transformed the department and earned the community’s respect.
But Harden didn’t look like a superstar in 1990. He was the commission’s second choice. (The first wouldn’t agree to a contract.) Harden had been asked to leave Winter Park, where he had been manager for 12 years, because the elected officials wanted someone more outgoing. So being forced out of one job doesn’t disqualify someone for another under difference circumstances.
Going in, one could have predicted that the three-member majority of Mayor Cary Glickstein and commissioners Jordana Jarjura and Shelly Petrolia will have the most sway. That’s even more likely now that Adam Frankel won’t be at Friday’s meeting.
Frankel told me that the interviews originally were scheduled for last week, and that he was not asked about the switch. He will be out of town on a “work trip.” He asked the city attorney if he could make his pick through a memo. The answer was no. To vote, commissioners must be present. One hopes that the vote isn’t 2-2.
Status Quo in Boca-Delray
It will be status quo at all levels for the elected officials who represent the Boca-Delray area.
In Congress, Democrats Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch kept their seats easily. State Sen. Maria Sachs and State Rep. Bill Hager got strong challenges, but held on. As she did in 2012, Sachs got a large enough margin in Palm Beach County to more than offset Ellyn Bogdanoff’s edge in Broward County. County Commissioner Steven Abrams had little trouble beating Andy O’Brien.
Nationwide, the electorate was angry at incumbents. Not here.
And Delray Beach won’t need a second vote on that moratorium on marijuana dispensaries. The constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana got 57 percent of the vote, but needed 60 percent to pass.
I favor the use of medical marijuana. This amendment, however, was very broad, designed that way to get young people to vote—for the amendment and for Charlie Crist. His law partner financed the campaign to get Amendment 2 on the ballot.
If there’s another campaign, it should be about helping the suffering, not about getting someone elected.
You can email Randy Schultz at email@example.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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