City commissioners flank Debra Sullivan, holding her plaque marking 20 years as city clerk and city administrator. Others shown from left include Taylor Shimkus, Mayor Chris Arbutine, Joe Barkley, Suzy Sofer and Steve McNally.



BELLEAIR BLUFFS — City Administrator Debra Sullivan was honored at a March 7 City Commission meeting for completing 20 years as city clerk/city administrator.

She was hired in 2002 as city clerk and became city administrator when that job was created in 2014. At the time, it was noted that Sullivan was already performing duties of normally associated with a city administrator post.

Mayor Chris Arbutine, who became mayor 21 years ago and hired Sullivan a year later, spoke at some length about Sullivan's service to the city over the years.

Arbutine said the city has come a long way since those early days “when it seemed the city staff and commission were almost caretakers of the city.” That changed dramatically, Arbutine said, as Sullivan “was more than a city clerk, she was the boss as far as city administration goes and worked with the commission to get things done.”

Sullivan earned her Master Municipal Clerk certification in 2011, and ever since 2014 the city, under her leadership, has received the Government Finance Officers award for excellence, the mayor said.

“People trust her,” Arbutine said. Good things have happened in Belleair Bluffs “because of her character, because of her caring, hard work, her intelligence, and the relationships that she’s built not only with the residents but with local business leaders and other organizations like the city of Largo, city of Belleair, and Pinellas County.”

Arbutine mentioned the thriving business community in Belleair Bluffs and the many community events that people enjoy. He told Sullivan, “All of these things have happened over the 20 years you have been here. I just want to say thank you, Debra, for the work you have done to help us achieve the things that we’ve envisioned.”

Fourth of July planning

The city’s popular Fourth of July event returns this year — on Saturday, July 2. City Clerk Alexis Silcox said she and Sullivan had met with representatives of the Bluffs Business Association and Events by JK to begin the planning.

Sullivan said the plan is to close Sunset Boulevard in front of City Hall, where hamburgers and hot dogs will be cooked on the grill, and other food like ice cream and slushies will be available. There will be a band and a bounce house in the park. The BBA will again have items from the businesses that are raffled off, with seating under a big tent in the parking lot. Beautiful desserts made by residents for the baking contest will be back, continuing a long tradition in Belleair Bluffs.

Loan to be paid off 

The commission heard a presentation by Dave Shimkus, chairman of the city’s Finance Committee, recommending that the city pay off the remaining balance on the loan for the City Hall/Community Center building. Doing so will save the city approximately $10,000 over the remaining five-plus years of the loan.

Shimkus said the Finance Committee, along with the city’s financial advisor RBC Capital Markets, regularly look at ways to best use the funds of the city. In this case, the city would be spending $271,000 to pay off the loan, and avoiding about $6,000 a year in future interest payments. That savings is offset by a prepayment penalty.

The Finance Committee had agreed unanimously to recommend paying off the Truist Bank loan.

Arbutine, a local businessman, pointed out that while this would probably not be a good decision for a profit-making company, he agrees it is a wise choice for the city.

“If this was my business, I’d keep the loan because it’s cheap money, and I’d use that money to make more money,” Arbutine said. “But cities aren’t in the business of making money. We’re here to save money as stewards of the funds.” 

The commission agreed in a 5-0 vote to pay off the loan right away.