MADEIRA BEACH – Fire Chief Derryl O’Neal, a longtime city employee, has been named acting city manager.
O’Neal had informally stepped in to fill the job following the suspension of City Manager Shane Crawford at the May 4 commission meeting. Crawford has not been terminated, pending the outcome of legal issues surrounding his dismissal, and is still on the city payroll.
O’Neal’s appointment as acting city manager came at the May 23 special commission meeting. The vote was 3-2, a split that has been typical of most actions taken by the commission since the March elections. Mayor Maggi Black, Vice Mayor John Douthirt and Commissioner Nancy Oakley, all newly elected, were in favor, with Commissioners Nancy Hodges and Terry Lister opposed.
Lister said at a workshop held prior to the commission meeting that O’Neal would be overworked by taking on the duties of city manager in addition to his fire chief job. “The fire chief has a lot to do. He does not need added responsibilities,” Lister said. He added, “There are a ton of things falling through the cracks right now. Chief O’Neal has been doing an excellent job as fire chief, but this is not a good move.”
Hodges said she also opposed having O’Neal take on the acting city manager role. “I really like you as fire chief,” she told O’Neal, “but I feel this would be very stressful for you.”
But Oakley countered Lister’s and Hodges’ remarks, saying O’Neal “is pretty much doing (the city manager job) now, and doing a good job of it.”
Douthirt said he had talked with Chief O’Neal about becoming acting city manager, “and he feels he can do it.”
O’Neal said at the workshop he was ready to take on the added responsibilities of city manager, on a short term basis.
“Yes, there are additional duties,” O’Neal said, “but we are up to the task. Working together for our city, we can make this work,” he said.
The commission appointed O’Neal as acting city manager at the special meeting that followed the workshop. There, Lister was more specific about his preference for city manager.
He told O’Neal, “You don’t know what you’re asking for” in agreeing to take on the city manager’s responsibilities. But, he added, “there is a guy that knows exactly what you’re asking for.” That is Shane Crawford, and he is already on the payroll, Lister said.
O’Neal would have to be paid extra for taking on the added duties of city manager, Lister said. “You’d be spending money on top of money,” by appointing O’Neal.
Lister urged the commission to “bring Crawford back.”
Hodges agreed. “Why can’t (Crawford) just continue (as city manager)?” she said.
Following on his comments at the workshop, O’Neal said his goals as acting city manager will be to keep the city operating properly and maintain resident services.
“In the short run, I think we’ll be fine,” he said. The 3-2 decision to name O’Neal as acting city manager followed.
The decision was an important one because, as Lister pointed out, the city manager job could take a while to fill. There are steps to be followed, including determining job qualifications and salary, posting the job, recruitment, selecting applicants, interviewing, and making an offer. Then, there is time involved in moving and actually starting work. The entire process could take months. So, O’Neal’s term as acting city manager could be a lengthy one.
Oakley said following the meeting that she believes O’Neal has the ability to do the city manager’s job well. “It’s a challenge, but we have faith in (O’Neal),” she said. “The city will keep moving forward and the services will remain the same.”
Commission divided on city clerk hiring
The hiring of a city clerk to replace fired clerk Cheryl Crawford became another subject of controversy, as the commission divided over the qualifications needed for the job.
Black began the discussion by saying she thought the city clerk job should not require being certified. She said that would allow former City Clerk Aimee Servedio, who does not have certification but “wants to return,” to apply. She added, “No matter who it is, we would want them to get certification.”
Oakley said she preferred someone already certified, but the job posting could say either certification or on-the-job experience is acceptable. Servedio’s 34 years’ experience working for Madeira Beach “counts for a lot,” Oakley said, and that wording would “leave the door open for her to apply.”
Black said she agreed with that approach.
But Douthirt and Lister said the new city clerk should be certified, period.
“We need to have somebody who is already certified,” said Douthirt.
Lister said, “Certification is something we need if we are going to change the direction of the city.”
The city clerk job posting is planned to be on the agenda of the June 13 regular commission meeting. Whether certification will be required of applicants is unclear, based on the workshop discussion. Commissioner Hodges did not speak on the subject.
New city welcome signs coming
New signs welcoming visitors to Madeira Beach are planned for the median at the city’s east entrance on the Tom Stuart Causeway, and at the boundary line with Redington Beach at 155th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, Public Works/Marina Director Dave Marsicano said. Redington Beach has a welcome sign the other side of Gulf Boulevard at that location, he said. Also, the welcome sign at John’s Pass Park was folded in half by a storm and will be replaced.
Marsicano said he had spoken with a Florida Department of Transportation official on the signs, and walked the sites with him. About $15,000 has been budgeted for the project this year, he said.
Marsicano said the signs “are in the works” and he would “bring something back to the commission to approve.”