DUNEDIN — City Commissioner Deborah Kynes says Jennifer Bramley is the best city manager she’s worked with.
Kynes has served on the commission over two spans, from 1999 to 2009 and from 2014 until the present.
"You have been through an awful lot,” Kynes said at an Oct. 6 city commission meeting. “It's always a matter of trust. That's the heart of the matter. I think she's highly ethical.”
Other commissioners also gave Bramley — who has held her position for five years — high praise in a review of her annual evaluation.
Commissioners voted to give Bramley a 4% raise, commensurate with what other employees are set to receive. Her annual salary will increase to $199,396 from $191,727.
Commissioner Moe Freaney said great city managers create trust and are honest brokers with their elected officials.
"They just try to bring the facts home and play it straight,” Freaney said. “And you're a great city manager. You do that. It makes my job so much easier.”
She added that Bramley "lives and breathes the joy of Dunedin — you’re at things, you are involved, you love it here."
Freaney said the city manager is a good communicator, has built good relationships with other governments, and knows how to hire good people.
"I love the connection you have with other governmental leaders, the relationship you have with the county, which is incredibly important," Commissioner Jeff Gow said.
Commissioner John Tornga said in his evaluation he felt Bramley was excellent in managing city government.
"I don't hear any issues, and I don't see any," he said. "And I keep my eyes open for certain."
He also gave her excellent marks for working with other governments.
In her written evaluation, Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said Bramley has guided staff and officials through a maze of pandemic recover issues, the construction of City Hall, a complicated fiscal-management process and other matters.
Bujalski also praised Bramley at the meeting and said the city manager makes decisions based only on what’s best for the city.
"That does take a lot of ethics and self-control — vision, really — to do that," she said.
Bramley thanked commissioners for "a very positive evaluation” and added, “It's hard to believe five years have gone by.”
She noted that commissioners took a chance on her, because she was a deputy city manager before she came to Dunedin.
"It is a tough job, but I think that one thing that's really important for me to realize, and staff, to realize that I refer to all of five you affectionately as my five bosses," Bramley said. "I could not do the job that I'm doing, and we could not be the organization we are, if you instill in me fear for decisions I made."
All five commissioners have met with her individually, and they have had arguments behind closed doors, Bramley said.
"But I feel free to give you my recommendation," she said, adding that staff will implement their decisions to the best of their ability, even if they disagree with them.
Bramley added that staff serves an impassioned and educated community.
"I'm very grateful for this wonderful community,” she said. “I truly love it.”
She also complimented staff, adding that she will rarely second-guess a department director, “because they know their business — they're specialists.”
In other news
Commissioners gave final approval to the city budget, business plan and tax rate, which remains at 4.13 mills, the same as since fiscal 2016.
Freaney said she thinks the tax rate and the budget presented are in the best interest of residents, and that the Finance Board strongly felt the same way. Kynes and Gow made similar comments.
Commissioner John Tornga continued in his opposition to the current tax rate. He was in favor of adopting the rollback rate, which staff has said would be 3.7 mills, to provide for some tax relief.
"I'm not comfortable with some of the numbers we have been given," Tornga said.
Bujalski said she was pleased with everybody's work on the budget. She recalled the days in some previous years when commissioners were going over line items involving paper and postage.
"Us reviewing that does not help the process at all," she said.
She thinks the process has greatly improved, and commissioners are focusing on items that are important to residents.
No residents spoke for or against the adoption of the budget, tax rate or business plan.