BELLEAIR BLUFFS – The swearing in of Debra Sullivan as city administrator at the May 21 commission meeting marks the official beginning of a new level of city government.

The change creates a position “where Debra is the head administrative person of our city, not just a city clerk,” said Mayor Chris Arbutine in a comment after the meeting. “We want to recognize her for what she does.”

Sullivan has actually been serving in an administrator capacity while her title has remained city clerk.

Arbutine also said Belleair Bluffs has a government where the commission, led by the mayor, plays a leadership role.

“We tell the city staff, led by the city administrator, what we want to accomplish and to implement our goals in the best way possible,” Arbutine said. “We don’t hire the staff to tell us what to do, we tell them to get things done.”

The Belleair Bluffs model is visionary, Arbutine said. It puts government closer to the citizens who elect the mayor and commissioners. It’s been very productive, he said.

“Just look at all the great things going on in Belleair Bluffs, and the condition of our city,” Arbutine said.

The creation of the city administrator position and appointment of Debra Sullivan to fill it reinforces and strengthens Belleair Bluffs’ government model, Arbutine said.

At the meeting, the commission approved the city administrator employment agreement and Sullivan’s appointment. Administrative Assistant Alexis Silcox was appointed city clerk, replacing Sullivan in that role.

“We codified our new arrangement,” said Commissioner Joseph Barkley, “and we can look forward to an exciting future with this new format for our city.”

“I’m excited about the new dynamic we’re putting in place. People are watching us,” Commissioner Suzy Sofer said.

In a later comment, Sofer reaffirmed what the mayor said about Belleair Bluffs’ approach to government.

“The City Commission makes decisions. We stand by them, and are held accountable for them. If people don’t like the decisions, they can vote us out. They can’t vote out a staff member.

“This has been a proven form of government and it works for us,” Sofer said.

After the swearing-in of Sullivan as city administrator, she said she is “beyond honored” by her appointment. “I will continue to serve as I have for the past 16 years,” she said.