Belleair Beach begins search for new city manager

Lynn Rives

BELLEAIR BEACH — City Manager Lynn Rives has announced his retirement, and the city has begun a search for a new chief executive.

The city council approved an advertisement for the city manager position at its April 4 regular meeting.

Among the qualifications the city will be looking for are a minimum five years’ experience as a city manager or comparable job.

Florida government experience is highly preferred, “especially prior experience with coastal community issues, beach nourishment, emergency operations and evacuation,” the solicitation reads. Also sought are experience as a Community Rating System coordinator and certified floodplain manager.

Knowledge of administrative policy laws and regulations, government budgeting and finances, comprehensive planning and public works responsibilities are required for the city manager.

The council agreed to accept a version of the ad drafted by Vice Mayor Glenn Gunn that calls for a manager with “strong leadership skills and a ‘hands-on’ and participative work ethic.”

Salary range and benefits “depend on qualifications, experience, and professional credentials.”

Rives’ retirement notice was expected, as he has been saying he planned to leave after the March election. That election saw the decisive defeat of Mayor Joseph Manzo, who had a rocky relationship with Rives. Manzo had repeatedly criticized Rives, while the other council members spoke highly of Rives and gave him full support.

In a special meeting on March 24, the council voted unanimously to accept Rives’ 60-day notice of retirement and authorize advertising the city manager position. While his official retirement date would be in late May, Rives has said he is open to working out a plan for him to come in after that date to help with the transition if needed.

Though the council decided to solicit applications for the job, there was support from one council member for going ahead and selecting Kyle Riefler, who is currently Assistant City Manager/Community Services Director.

“I’d like to see a ladder move, promoting from within, rather than bringing someone from an outside source,” Council Member Frank Bankard said at the March 24 meeting. “Kyle (Riefler) has been doing the job and I think (we) have full confidence in him.”  

Gunn said while he agreed with promotion from within, “you’ve got to see what’s out there.” He added that advertising for the city manager position is the responsible thing to do.

Others also said Riefler would be a top candidate among the applicants.

When Rives became city manager in 2017, it was a promotion from within, as he was Community Services/Public Works Director at the time City Manager Nancy Gonzalez retired. Rives was interim city manager for nine months while the city conducted a search to fill the position before naming him to the job.

Rives’ prior experience included being leisure services director at the city of Oldsmar, and serving as a Belleair Beach city council member for four years, followed by four years as mayor from 2007 to 2011. When he later joined city staff in 2017, he said “it was originally supposed to be a part-time job.”

In comments to the Bee, Rives made it clear he wanted to pursue a new path for himself while leaving at a time when the city is heading in a positive direction.

“I’m happy for the residents, and I think there’s going to be a lot of positivity with the recent election changes,” said Rives. “I think whoever becomes the city manager is going to come into a very positive atmosphere.”

Rives, who lived in Belleair Beach for 22 years before recently moving to Largo, said, “I’ve enjoyed living here all those years, and I’ll still be in the area, but it’s time to retire and do something else.”

Music event on tap 

On Saturday, April 30, the city is presenting “Fly Me to the Moon,” an event that features “Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack type of music, and pizza by the slice,” according to Park and Rec board chairperson Tammie Lavenda. It will be at Bayside Park beside city hall, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The event is intended to bring residents together in a casual setting. “It should be nice,” Lavenda said, “and hopefully we’ll have a good turnout for that.”

Lavenda also reminded people of the successful beach cleanups that are held monthly, normally on the first Saturday of the month. Participants meet on the beach at 19th Street at 8 a.m., and go both directions to pick up trash. Refreshments are provided afterwards.

Rives announced that the popular citywide garage sale is returning this year, scheduled for Saturday, May 7. He said the city is getting new signs that will direct people to park on one side of the street only, to avoid past problems where the streets were difficult to navigate because of disorganized parking.