CLEARWATER — The city will wait until after the 2020 Clearwater City Council election to hire Deputy City Manager Jill Silverboard’s replacement, City Manager William Horne told the Beacon.
Silverboard, who councilmembers praised for her effectiveness and hard work at her final council meeting on May 16, announced in April that she was moving to Pinellas County government, where she will serve as deputy county administrator and chief of staff. Her last day was May 21.
The election will affect three of the five council seats and affect the timing of Horne’s own retirement after 20 years with the city, Horne said. The idea is to allow a new council to fill the city’s two top administration positions, making for a smoother transition.
“Jill’s departure and moving to the County was unexpected,” Horne said. “From a timing perspective, it makes it more complicated on what the next step will be.”
Here’s how timing could affect the hiring of a deputy city manager, according to Horne.
The city manager and his or her deputy serve at the pleasure of the City Council, and the makeup of the city council could change drastically after March 17, 2020, when voters will decide the next Clearwater mayor, as well as city council seats 2 and 3, now held by Jay Polglaze and Robert Cundiff respectively. Mayor George Cretekos cannot run again because he’s met term limits.
When Horne announces his retirement date after the new council is seated, that council would hire a new city manager to its liking and possibly, replace anyone hired in the interim for the deputy city manager position.
“It’s going to be up to that new group as to what happens to me, and then, how does that affect every one of us,” Horne said.
That uncertainty has made some candidates reluctant to apply, Horne said.
“You would be looking for a candidate who says, ‘I don’t mind being Number 2, but I’m not ready to be Number 1.’ Or, ‘I’m ready to be Number 1, but I don’t want to come in as Number 2 in case another person becomes Number 1.’”
That doesn’t mean government professionals haven’t reached out for Silverboard’s old job.
“I’ve had a couple of people express interest in filling Jill’s position, people on the outside who have heard about her vacancy, but I have not gone out and recruited for that position,” Horne said.
Silverboard oversaw nine city departments, from engineering, finance and budget, human resources, IT, libraries, public utilities, solid waste/general services, parks and recreation, and planning and development.
Horne and Assistant City Manager Micah Maxwell will handle Silverboard’s former departmental responsibilities, while Planning and Development Director Michael Delk oversees Imagine Clearwater and the work of the Community Redevelopment Agency, Horne said.
“Micah and Michael will be a little bit busier than we would normally be,” Horne said. “I would be a lot busier, with more departments under my responsibility between now and the City Council election.”
Silverboard recounted how city managers navigated the economic decline that began in 2007, popularly referred to as the “Great Recession.” Municipalities around the nation had to tighten their belts drastically.
The city maintained its programs and avoided laying off employees by coming up with less expensive ways to provide services, Silverboard said.
“For instance, in lieu of building a new senior center facility, we repurposed existing space at the Long Center.” Under her plan, the city-owned center, with its indoor pool, exercise equipment and meeting rooms, began to offer programs at senior services.
Silverboard said she helped the city reduce its energy bills by cutting electric consumption, converting street lights to LED system, and instilling performance contracts for sports field lighting.
Neither Horne nor the councilmembers begrudge Silverboard’s ascension to county government. In fact, she could improve communications between the county commission and the city. Cretekos joked that her new office in the County Court House is just walking distance of her former city office in downtown Clearwater.
“We are losing a gem,” Cretekos said. “The county hit a homerun when they hired her as the deputy there. We are glad you’re just a block or two from us; we know your heat has always been in Clearwater, always in Pinellas County, and we are excited not only for you but for your family.”
Other councilmembers lauded her for her work with the city.
“I have enjoyed working with Jill these three-plus years,” Councilman Bob Cundiff told Silverboard at the May 16 City Council meeting. “Thank you for all of your help and advice. When I came to you with all the problems, you helped me get them solved, and I appreciate that very much.”
Polglaze, who has served as councilman for more than one term, said he had relied on Silverboard a lot: “You will be missed,” Polglaze told her. “You’ve been someone I can always lay it on the line, tell you how it is, tell you where I’m coming from, and you’ve responded. I will miss you.”
Horne said he would miss her as his deputy.
“Thank you for your great service,” he told her. “We look forward to working with you — you won’t be far from us.”
Silverboard will make a $210,000 salary as deputy under County Administrator Barry Burton. The deputy acts in the name of the county’s top manager and as the county’s top manager when required to do so.