Divided Madeira Beach Commission again picks city manager

The Madeira Beach City Commission voted 3-2 on July 8 to hire James Drumm as the new city manager. Drumm was originally commissioners' third choice.

MADEIRA BEACH — Choosing a city manager in this divided city apparently becomes more difficult as the list narrows. After the commission’s first choice, Michelle Neuner, turned down the job because one commissioner voted against her appointment, an even more divided commission has made its second selection.

After Neuner declined the offer to be city manager, the commission decided on July 1 to reconsider all candidates on its finalists list rather than select their second-place choice, Lyndon Bonner, for the job.

The commission met on July 8 to make the final choice, and once again passed on Bonner before deciding on James Drumm, who had originally been ranked third.

A motion by Commissioner Deby Weinstein to name Drumm as city manager passed 3 to 2, supported by Weinstein, Commissioner John Douthirt, and Mayor Maggi Black. The motion was strongly opposed by Commissioners Doug Andrews and Nancy Hodges.

Bonner was Black’s original first choice, but she said she switched her vote to Drumm after receiving additional information from Drumm, which Andrews said was “a glossy color picture.”

The vote came after city Human Resources Coordinator Karen Paulson said a third finalist, Andrew Butterfield, had withdrawn his name, but Bonner and Drumm were still “very interested” in the city manager job.

In discussions before the vote, the division among the commissioners was clear.

Andrews said filling the city manager position had become “quite a nightmare” and offered what he called an “out-of-the-box” solution. He proposed former city Finance Director Vince Tenaglia, now finance director of St. Pete Beach.

Andrews said Tenaglia “accomplished a lot” while at Madeira Beach. He wrote five budgets, got dozens of grants, knows the city “inside and out” and could “fill a desperate need for leadership at City Hall.”

“(Tenaglia) works, is nonpolitical and could be our first-round draft pick,” Andrews said.

Black said Tenaglia had not applied for the city manager job and had not expressed an interest in it during several recent encounters she had with him.

It was not known whether Tenaglia would take the job if it were offered to him.

A motion by Andrews to hire Tenaglia as city manager failed in a 3 to 2 vote.

Hodges said Bonner was the commission’s second-place choice at the time Neuner was selected and should have automatically been the choice when Neuner withdrew.

“I can’t understand why we are even having this meeting,” Hodges said. “No one is following the rules.”

But Weinstein said the commission had agreed to look at the other candidates. “I looked at Bonner,” Weinstein said, but Drumm has “a very good, solid reputation.”

“I think he would regard our city as a challenge,” Weinstein said.

She said that Drumm has been in cities with split commissions, and “I think that’s healthy. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.”

Drumm has been city manager of Brunswick, Georgia, a port city with a population of 40,000, since 2015, and has also been city manager of several cities in Florida, including Zephyrhills and High Springs. He was raised in Florida, graduated from University of Florida in 1984 and got a master’s degree from the University of South Florida in Tampa.

He describes himself as a hands-on manager who does not micromanage, with “a great understanding of the many varied aspects of municipal government, from record archiving, budgeting, purchasing, to excelling in program delivery in crucial areas such as emergency services and public works capital construction projects.”

Drumm also said he has been successful in getting grants, and is “available to the citizens, staff and elected officials, and can develop and maintain effective relationships with local and state officials to ensure that our community priorities are addressed.”

Interim city manager chosen, in close vote

The commission chose Robert Daniels, recently retired town manager of Melbourne Beach, to be interim city manager for about a month beginning July 10, the departure date of current City Manager Jonathan Evans. New manager Drumm is expected to start about Aug. 1.

Weinstein said she liked Daniels’ varied background. He has served, she said, as a financial investigator, and in various positions with police departments, mostly in beach communities. Hiring Daniels is “the prudent thing to do,” Weinstein said.

“He will see our city in a different perspective which would be extremely advantageous to us,” she said.

Andrews questioned the financial costs — salary, lodging, meals, etc. — of hiring an interim manager from the outside. Having someone currently on staff handle the position for a short period of time makes more sense, Andrews said.

“If we do not have anyone in-house who can handle the position for three weeks, then we have done an incredibly bad job of picking executives,” Andrews said.

“We have an obligation to our citizens and staff to do this. It is our responsibility and there is a financial tag to it,” Weinstein said.

Black said the people on staff “have a lot on their plates right now.”

The vote to hire Daniels as interim city manager was 3-2. Black, Douthirt and Weinstein were in favor. Andrews and Hodges were opposed.

Evans said he would have an employment agreement prepared for approval at the following day’s regular commission meeting.