DUNEDIN — A discussion over a proposed raise for City Manager Jennifer Bramley became tense Sept. 16 when Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski strongly urged commissioners to also approve a $2,000 bonus for her.
Though they voted unanimously to give Bramley a 3 percent raise as part of her annual evaluation, the commission decided to hold off on discussing the bonus until the next City Commission meeting.
Bujalski initially said she was embarrassed for the city manager that fellow commissioners would not approve the bonus that evening.
“She did a great job; let's reward her. It's two thousand dollars. My god," she said.
She added that commissioners were making a mountain out of a mole hill by not approving it that evening.
“I think that's your opinion,” Commissioner Moe Freaney said.
Freaney added she could approve the bonus that evening but it would be a break from tradition.
"I don't want this to turn into a negative night," she said, referring to Bramley's accomplishments that were named during the discussion.
Bujalski later apologized to commissioners for her frustration, saying she didn't "think it was big deal" to give Bramley a bonus.
"Maybe I'm part of the problem. I admit that," she said.
Bramley, who was hired in 2017, makes $186,000 annually. The 3 percent raise brings her salary to just under $192,000.
Commissioners praise Bramley
Commissioners gave Bramley kudos for a number of accomplishments in the past year.
Bujalski commended Bramley as well as City Attorney Nikki Day for their work with county officials in the acquisition of the 44-acre Gladys Douglas Hackworth property off Keene Road that will become a nature preserve
"There was no playbook. It really was about I believe in the city's mission … and your ability to not accept no," Bujalski said.
She also said that Bramley and former Deputy Manager Doug Hutchens were instrumental in plans for a new city hall that have been discussed for years, adding that Bramley showed courage on the issue.
"You were able to bring the community along too and you made it happen and now it's being built," Bujalski said.
Commissioners provided written comments as part of Bramley's evaluation, with Commissioner Deborah Kynes saying that Bramley is a strong leader and trusts her interactions among the commissioners and the mayor.
"A strong leader gives a feeling of security. We have not always agreed on issues but have always talked out any disagreements," she wrote.
Commissioner Jeff Gow wrote that Bramley "was not only able to manage the city through the pandemic and into a state of recovery but keep a number of projects moving forward."
Freaney wrote that Bramley is an "excellent city manager and the citizens of Dunedin are lucky to have her."
"She's extremely competent, has great integrity, knows how to hire excellent staff around her, is a talented problem solver and she cares. She cares about the Dunedin community both on and off the job," Freaney wrote.
Bujalski wrote that she couldn't say enough about Bramley's performance this year.
"She has risen to the occasion and is a real asset to the organization & the community," she wrote.
Commissioner John Tornga gave Bramley ratings of “meet expectations” in all categories, saying that should be considered favorable and is provided with "less than a full year of observation," having served for less than a full term.
Bramley said the commission's remarks didn't bother her.
"It really was a good evening. I very much appreciate all of your comments this evening," she said. "We've had a very, very big year."
The Douglas Hackworth preserve and city hall "were really once-in-a-career type of projects," she said, and she's glad they were brought to fruition.
"I'm not walking out of here in any way shape or form thinking I didn't get the best evaluation that I could get from all of you," she said.
The city undertook $172 million in capital projects in the past two years, she said.