MADEIRA BEACH — Jonathan Evans, city manager of Madeira Beach since February of last year, has resigned.
He will be returning to Riviera Beach as city manager, a job he left after being fired in September 2017.
But the City Council there changed this spring, and a majority of the new council members wanted him back. WPTV of West Palm Beach reported, “(Evans’) firing pushed the city into turmoil and led to a clean sweep in the following elections. The three city council members who voted to fire Evans were ousted. The new board immediately started the process of starting contract negotiations again.”
Evans will be paid a base salary of $200,000 a year in his new job, a $50,000 increase from his pay at Madeira Beach. Riviera Beach has a population of 33,000 compared to Madeira Beach’s 4,400. The city’s municipal workforce is 10 times larger, 500 versus 50.
Two city council members (of five) voted against approving the contract with Evans, apparently believing the pay offer was too much.
Evans signed the contract to return to Riviera Beach on Thursday, May 9. In a statement to the local media, he said, “To return, in light of all things that have occurred (since his firing), it is humbling to be offered a second chance.”
In a letter sent late last week to “Madeira Beach Residents, Business Owners, Operators and Visitors,” Evans said, in part:
“I came to Madeira Beach in the midst of some challenges and uncertainty. Over the past year plus, with the help of staff, we have worked hard to bring a sense of direction, purpose, and vision to our community. I have made many new friends, learned some valuable lessons, and hopefully contributed to the growth and evolution of Madeira Beach. Now it is time for me to move on.”
In a separate letter to the mayor and city commissioners, Evans officially gave 60 days’ notice of his resignation, saying:
“I am truly humbled and grateful for the opportunity that this community has provided me, and for the elected officials, residents, businesses and community leaders that have supported me during this remarkable journey. I have enjoyed my time here, and I have met some remarkable people who will certainly be lifelong friends. It is with a heavy heart that I depart, as I will miss this wonderful community – from its serene and surreal sunsets to its eclectic neighborhoods and shopping districts. I am truly blessed and humbled to have served as your City Manager.”
Commissioner Deby Weinstein, a longtime city resident and activist, told the Beacon she was “very saddened” to learn of Evans’ resignation.
“Of the 10 city managers I have known and worked with over the past 40 years, he was the best,” Weinstein said.
She described Evans as “a real hands-on person.”
“We did not always agree, but Jonathan was dedicated to bringing all sides together for a satisfactory result. On a number of issues, he made things happen,” said Weinstein.
Commissioner Nancy Hodges said Evans, in her view, never had a chance to reach his potential at Madeira Beach, due to the city’s continuing political turmoil.
“He came in like a fireball, with some great ideas,” she said. “But the whole time he was here, he was putting out fires.”
“I know he’s a good city manager, but he didn’t have a chance to really show it,” Hodges said.
Now that Evans has announced his leaving, “we need to move forward” and find his replacement, she said, “and the sooner the better,” Hodges said.
“We’re resilient, we will come back, and we’ll be a stronger city for it. We’ve learned some lessons, and that is something to build on,” she said.
Hodges said a top priority needs to be the city employees, who are “our backbone.” She said Evans recognized the value of the city employees and had a plan to help them.
“We need to carry through and take care of the employees,” Hodges said. “They are special, and we need them.”
Evans’ last day will be Tuesday, July 9. He has proposed an ambitious schedule for the commissioners to hire his replacement. It calls for posting the job by May 17, reviewing applications on June 11, and conducting interviews in late June, with the final selection made and a contract signed by July 9.