BELLEAIR BEACH – Ending a public service career spanning nearly three decades, Belleair Beach City Manager Nancy Gonzalez has decided to retire.
Gonzalez said in a telephone interview with the Bee that “the time had come,” and she would be leaving at the end of September after serving 10 years as Belleair Beach city manager.
Community Services Director Lynn Rives was named to become interim city manager by the City Council at its Aug. 7 meeting. The council placed a six-month limit on Rives’ service as interim manager. That can be renewed if no city manager is hired by the end of that time.
Gonzalez will be wrapping up over 17 years with Belleair Beach city government. She served seven years as city clerk before being named city manager in 2007. Previously, she held deputy clerk, town clerk and city clerk positions with Indian Shores, Seminole, Gulfport and Redington Beach.
Gonzalez became a Certified Municipal Clerk in November 2000, shortly after joining Belleair Beach, and a Master Municipal Clerk in 2008.
Among the notable achievements during Gonzalez’s career were the building of a new City Hall/ Community Center in 2009, and the resolution of a longstanding dispute with the county over public parking spaces needed to qualify for periodic sand nourishment of the city’s public beaches. The potential loss of beach renourishment had been seen as a major threat to the city’s status as a prime beachfront residential community.
Rives appointed interim manager
Rives was named by council to become interim city manager when Gonzalez leaves in a 5 to 1 vote. Council member Pamela Gunn was opposed. She said the $95,000 annual salary for the position was the amount intended for a permanent city manager. Council Member Jeril Cohen was absent.
Rives, who is also a former Belleair Beach mayor, was backed by former mayor Rob Baldwin and former City Council member Dick Crowl.
Baldwin said Rives’ background as leisure services director at Oldsmar and Belleair Beach mayor make him “uniquely qualified” for the city manager job. Rives has experience in issues facing a barrier island community, such as flood plain management, stormwater, seawalls, and road repaving and resurfacing, Baldwin said.
Crowl said he was on the council from 2006 to 2010 when Rives was mayor.
“I worked with Lynn on a lot of significant projects such as hiring Nancy, building this building, and outsourcing the police department. Lynn was instrumental in virtually all of those decisions,” Crowl said.
Rives also lives in Belleair Beach, Crowl pointed out. He said Rives “listens to the community. He loves the community.”
But resident William Ward saw a council plan to hire Rives as permanent city manager without a proper search for other candidates.
“The city council is determined to put Mr. Rives in,” Ward said.
In a comment following the meeting, Ward’s wife Janet said she agreed.
“This was a done deal. To bring in Lynn Rives, that was the plan. Then segue him into city manager,” she said.
The council decided to hold a special workshop meeting to discuss the city manager position and the hiring process on Monday, Aug. 14 starting at 4:30 p.m.
Sheriff’s policing contract renewed
The council voted unanimously to renew the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services. The cost is $461,300, a 2.54 percent increase over the current contract.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri spoke on behalf of the contract’s renewal. He said the cost increase is to provide contracted pay increases to department employees.
Gualtieri described Belleair Beach as “a very, very safe place.”
“A lot of things don’t happen here that happen in other parts of the county,” he said.
Policing in Belleair Beach involves “engaging the citizens beyond just driving up and down the streets and the beach,” Gualtieri said.
Belleair Beach is a residential community, and “the deputies have to be in the neighborhoods, talking to residents and getting to know them, developing relationships,” he said.
Gualtieri described neighborhood patrols, where the deputies “spend time in talking to people. We want to keep the live communications up.” The Sheriff’s Office was given a round of applause from the council and audience members following Gualtieri’s comments.