Madeira Beach City Manager Robert Daniels

Madeira Beach City Manager Robert Daniels

MADEIRA BEACH — In an unexpected move that gained immediate acceptance, the City Commission decided to let interim City Manager Robert Daniels stay on as permanent manager. Daniels was hired in early July to fill the city’s top job until city manager-designate James Drumm’s arrival.

But Daniels’ performance at City Hall impressed commission members and staff to the extent he has been asked to stay on.

Daniels’ hiring came at the end of the unfinished business section of the Aug. 13 commission meeting, listed on the agenda as a “discussion of city manager position” led by City Attorney Ralf Brookes.

Brookes never spoke. Instead, Mayor Maggi Black addressed the commission. She said that “since Mr. Daniels has been here, a little over a month, he has done an excellent job. I asked Mr. Daniels if he would be willing to stay on as permanent city manager and he said he would be willing to do that.”

Black then recommended “we rescind the offer to Mr. Drumm and offer the job to Mr. Daniels.”

The status of Drumm as the permanent city manager had not been settled. In response to an inquiry from the Beacon, Human Resources Coordinator Karen Paulson said Drumm had not yet agreed to a contract with the city.

Daniels’ hiring as permanent city manager was embraced by all of the commission members, a rarity in Madeira Beach. The commission had been divided over the appointment of both Daniels as interim manager and Drumm as permanent manager.

Drumm had been the commission’s original third choice. He was hired after top pick Michelle Neuner turned the job down after she failed to get a unanimous backing from commission members. Another candidate in the top-three list withdrew.

Daniels was also selected by a divided commission to serve as interim manager. Commissioner Doug Andrews had wanted the job filled in-house, questioning the expense of bringing in someone from outside. He and Commissioner Nancy Hodges voted against hiring Daniels for the temporary position.

But at the Aug. 13 all commission members spoke highly of Daniels and backed Black’s recommendation to name him permanent city manager.

Commissioner John Douthirt agreed, saying “though brought on as a short-termer, he (Daniels) has not been acting like a short-termer.”

“Withdraw our offer to Drumm,” said Douthirt.

Drumm had been Douthirt’s top pick for city manager.

Commissioner Nancy Hodges, who along with Andrews had opposed hiring Daniels as interim manager, had high praise for the job he’d done during his short time at City Hall.

“You hit the ground running when you came in, and are still going at it,” Hodges said to Daniels. “You have made this your home during the last five weeks, and I would like you to consider staying on at City Hall.”

Commissioner Deby Weinstein said she had looked at Daniels’ interaction with city employees and “I’m very satisfied with that.”

Good customer service is most important, said Weinstein.

“We’ve got to show our business people, our citizens and employees that we are accountable,” she said.

“Your ethics are very high,” Weinstein told Daniels. “You do the right things.”

Commissioner Doug Andrews joined in, saying, “It’s tough to make this panel all agree on something, but I echo all the commissioners’ comments” on Daniels.

“What we’ve seen is some leadership at City Hall, and I’m thrilled,” said Andrews, who then made a motion to “rescind the offer to Drumm and begin contract negotiations with Daniels immediately.”

The motion passed unanimously, with applause from the audience.

Former Commissioner Doreen Moore said Daniels had done “a wonderful job” in bringing people together, listening to ideas, and following up.

“(Daniels) has bridged a very large gap among commissioners in drawing consensus, and maybe quelling some of the contentiousness here before,” Moore said. “Kudos to him for bringing the team together and having the support of the staff,” she said.

In comments after the vote, Daniels emphasized the importance of teamwork.

“We’re going to have challenges that come up, but the key thing is that we all work on those together. We’re not perfect, and I’m not perfect, but I think if we all work together it’s amazing what you can do when you’re unified,” he said.

Daniels served two years as town manager of Melbourne Beach before being fired earlier this year. He spent most of his career in police work, including police chief and eventually interim town manager of North Bay Village, Florida. He has held police chief positions in Juno Beach and Boca Raton, and Buckeye, Arizona.

Most private parking lots now legal

Stand-alone parking lots operated in the city by private firms have been growing in size and number in recent years. Their rates are high, often double the $2.50 an hour in city-owned lots. But the demand has been high too, especially in the John’s Pass area where open parking spaces are often hard to find.

The number of private parking lots has continued to grow along with the demand, and businesses depend on them to provide needed parking spaces.

The problem is, all the stand-alone lots are illegal, prohibited by a city law that is rarely enforced because closing the lots “would be catastrophic,” Community Development Director Linda Portal told the commission at a workshop in May. The code book allows parking lots that are an accessory to a business, but not free-standing lots.

Stand-alone private parking lots and garages will be allowed as a special exception under an ordinance passed on first reading by the commission at the Aug. 13 meeting.

They will be permitted in the C-1 tourist commercial district only, said Planning and Zoning Coordinator Jenny Rowan. That includes the area in John’s Pass Village, where most of the stand-alone lots are located. Lots in the Pelican Lane area, behind the Village, will continue to be illegal as they are in the R3 residential district, Rowan said.

“John’s Pass Village is the only place (the stand-alone lots) will be allowed,” Rowan stressed.

Final approval of the ordinance is expected at the September commission meeting.