Gregg and Michelle Mims at the recent tree-lighting ceremony in Indian Rocks Beach.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Gregg Mims has been city manager of Indian Rocks Beach for nearly six months now, and by all accounts things are going well. But his hiring nearly didn’t happen; in fact giving him an interview was a last-minute decision.
When the last city manager, Chuck Coward, retired early last summer the search was on for his replacement. As commissioners whittled down the short list there was some discussion whether the final candidates should all come from within Florida. Two of the dozen finalists were from out of state and the commissioners were concerned with the cost of bringing them in for an interview and whether an outsider would be able to cope with Florida laws governing municipalities.
After much discussion it was decided to include Mims as the lone candidate from outside the state. And his was the last interview of a long day of interviews. Not the most enviable position to be in if you are looking for a job.
He hit a home run. During his interview Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin said, “I’ve heard enough; we don’t need to say any more.”
After the interview they quickly decided Mims was the one, and hired him soon after that. They were impressed with Mims’ experience and his grasp of what has to be done to run a city. Six months later they aren’t disappointed.
“He’s done a good job in reaching out to community leaders and even in the first few weeks he established a personal relationship with the people most active in the town,” said Mayor R.B. Johnson. “He’s doing a very good job and he’s got a good attitude. Department heads have told me that he understands the concept of IRB and he’s really grasped it.”
Perhaps he is able to grasp the concept of Indian Rocks Beach because in his time as a city administrator he’s worked in beach communities. His last position was in Fairhope, Ala.
“We had an interest in Florida and we really enjoy beach communities,” said Mims. “People who are in the business I’m in are always looking for places that is politically stable because a lot of places are not. When I was offered the job Michelle (wife) and I talked about it and we decided we could live and work here for years. It is my commitment to the city and my family.”
Mims, 52, has been involved in government for 28 years. He’s been a city manager for the last 15 years of that. He has a degree in community and regional planning and began his career, logically enough, as a planner.
Mims said he was pleased with what he found when he began his job in Indian Rocks Beach.
“I think the city was very well run,” he said. “I talked with Chuck Coward recently and realized the city had made a lot of headway in the last few years with finances.”
Yet, he said, there are always things that can be improved upon and he has begun working on some of them.
“Operationally there are some things we can do internally with the staff to make things more business friendly, especially with our front counter,” he said. “If someone who wants a permit and walks in with a set of plans we should help that person get what they need and not have them chasing around after four or five people. We should be coming back to them with their permit and make sure we’re friendly about it.”
Mims also said he intends to continue to review the budget carefully.
“I’m going to work closely with Finance Director Dan Carpenter on revenues and expenditures, make sure we’re spending our money as wisely as we can but make sure the services provided by the city continue to be up to standard,” he said.
An upcoming challenge for Mims that he takes most seriously is the pending departure of Public Services Director Dean Scharmen. He’s due to retire in July.
“I’ll be working on a job announcement in the next week or two to get it out on the street,” he said. “Dean has been here for 35 years and we need somebody on board before he goes who can work with him. His will be hard shoes to fill; he has a lot of knowledge and respect and we need somebody compatible to work with him. Public Services take up a third or more of our budget so it is real important to me.”
While he is happy with his job, Mims said he and his wife Michelle are just as happy with the city and their quality of life.
“We’re thrilled and we decided to lease a home while we got the lay of the land,” he said. “We’re on the water and it is a joy every morning to pull back those sliding glass doors to watch the birds and dolphins and the occasional manatee happen by. And to have the beach just two blocks from our front door, well we couldn’t be happier.”
Mims says the best thing about Indian Rocks Beach is the people.
“We’ve lived in a few places but I would put IRB up there as the most friendly place I ever worked. Everybody speaks to you and when we moved in people came from two blocks away to help us unload the truck. Six or seven people asked us to share Thanksgiving dinner with them; they were just neighbors there to help us. This is one of the most friendly places I’ve ever been in my life.”
Michelle agrees. After moving to IRB she quickly got a job as an accounting supervisor and senior staff accountant with the city of Tarpon Springs. She loves the drive along the water from IRB to Tarpon and especially likes coming home.
“We are blessed to live in such a beautiful place,” she said. “We just love IRB; it has been a great move. This is a quaint city with so many diverse people and everyday it seems like we meet someone from a different place. We’ve grown to love how pretty this place is.”
The fact that the Mims moved into a home in the city is something unusual in IRB. Johnson said rarely has a city manager ever lived in the city and he likes it.
“It is unusual in my experience and he intends to stay. Being a resident and being around town most of the time gives him an extra dimension as a city manager,” he said.
For Mims a good deal of satisfaction he said comes from the elected officials that he has to work with. He says he’s impressed with what he’s seen so far.
“I’ve been around elected officials for 28 years and it is nice to work in a city where they all want to do the right thing,” he said. “I’m really impressed that they come at it from the standpoint where they really want to do what is right for the city. In other places there is too much politics; here I get answers that are not political. It has been an enjoyment to work with these people.”