INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Joanne “Cookie” Kennedy has only been mayor of Indian Rocks Beach since March when she was elected to replace the retiring R.B. Johnson.
In the nine months since her election, Kennedy has demonstrated that her leadership style is much different than her predecessor’s.
The latest manifestation of that occurred at the commission meeting on Nov. 13
Kennedy had assembled a group of 16 people who she said represented the whole community. As they stood side by side in front of the room, Kennedy went down the line presenting each person with a lit candle, and to each explained their importance to her and the city.
In the group were sheriff’s deputies and firefighters, mothers and fathers, community activists and a pastor.
“This is the beginning of a new tradition,” said Kennedy. “As we approach Thanksgiving we give thanks to you and are appreciative that you are in our community.”
Among the assembled group was a Jewish resident. In giving him his candle Kennedy thanked him for being a resident and offered condolences for the attack in October on a Synagogue in Pittsburgh in which 11 people were killed by a gunman.
“We do not do hate here,” she said. “We care about one another.”
Among those given a candle were the heads of Action 200 and the Homeowners Association, two groups that hold community-wide events to raise money to contribute to needed functions in the city.
Also honored were the founders of Greentown Kids, a new organization to help children become environmentally friendly.
“We love having you with your new ideas,” Kennedy told the women.
Once all 16 people had their candles Kennedy reminded them what they meant.
“The symbol of the candle is a beacon of light for our community,” she said. “We hope we are an example of what is ahead. Through the holidays remember the light that shines on you for your participation in our community.”
Later in the meeting other commissioners thanked Kennedy for the ceremony and indicated it was a tradition they would like to see continued.
Another first for Kennedy happened two weeks ago. She spearheaded the first “Women’s Tea” in IRB which brought together women from all over the community for an afternoon of exchanging ideas and finding common ground among women, another example of her style of leadership.
Red tide remains
It appears red tide won’t be going away anytime soon. That was the message from City Manager Gregg Mims, who told the commission that the fight against the effects of red tide is ongoing.
“The thing about red tide is that it is different every day,” he said. “On Sunday we collected 600 pounds of dead fish; there were only six on Monday and today (Tuesday) there were none.”
Mims told the story of a recent day when he looked out in his bay and saw the waster covered with dead fish. He called the authorities and then took his mother shopping. When they returned the fish were gone.
“Four boats responded to that situation,” he said.
Mims said county Director of Environmental Management Kelli Levy and the contractor have been on top of the cleanup efforts since the situation began.
He also praised his own staff for their efforts.
“We estimate we have cleaned 50,000 pounds of dead fish from the beach, so kudos to the public service staff for what they do every day out there,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting resident John Thayer thanked the city for the cleanup efforts.
“All indications are the red tide will be with us until late January,” said Mims.
Commissioner Ed Hoofnagle, given the task of finding a way to properly evaluate the charter officers of the city, said he has come up with a time line for the evaluations; now all he needs are the mechanics of doing the evaluations.
The charter officers are the three employees hired directly by the commission; the city manager, the city clerk and the city attorney.
The issue began several weeks ago when it was discovered, in the middle of budget deliberations, that there was no provision for raises for the charter officers, specifically Mims, the city manager and Deanne Bulino O’Reilly, the city clerk. City Attorney Randy Mora has a separate contract with the city negotiated through his law firm.
Mims left the room while commissioners discussed his compensation, but at a later meeting, Bulino O’Reilly was present as the commissioners discussed whether or not she deserved a raise.
All involved said later it was an uncomfortable situation and one that needed to be fixed.
That is when Hoofnagle took on the job to fix it.
He has recommended that discussion about raises for the officers in the future take place in February and March with a final decision to be made at a commission meeting on April. That way he said it would all be finished before the budget was complete and could be included.
Commissioners agreed with that. Now Hoofnagle will develop an evaluation form so the whole process will be uniform and possibly confidential.