Another top St. Petersburg administrator headed for chopping block?
ST. PETERSBURG -- The buzz started last week and has only grown stronger that Mayor Bill Foster is losing another top city administrator.
It was only last month that Foster's firing of his community enrichment senior administrator, Goliath Davis, drew newspaper headlines, press conferences, and breathless TV and radio coverage.
This time around word has it that Dave Metz, senior administrator of internal services (which oversees billing and collections; information technologies; purchasing; the city's clerk office; and human resources) is leaving the city after a meeting with Foster last week. But so far, people are mum about it, including Metz.
"It's a personal issue," Metz said Wednesday afternoon. "Even if it were true, I wouldn't confirm or deny. That's something you need to talk to the mayor about. The mayor hasn't confirmed it, and it's not going to be something that I'm going to confirm."
On Monday, City Administrator Tish Elston said she hadn't heard anything about Metz's departure. When asked that considering she, as the city's top adminstrator, would have to know that Metz is planning to leave, Elston clarified.
"Dave has not come to me and said, 'Tish, I want to retire,'" Elston said. "But I think there is an environment out there that more and more people are thinking about their retirement options."
Asked then if she knew whether Foster had discussed Metz's departure, Elston said, "No, not that I know of."
On Tuesday, Foster met with his top administrators at a morning meeting in which Elston and Metz were absent. According to Police Chief Chuck Harmon, he told those attending some information about Metz, but asked that it be kept confidential.
"The best person to ask is (Foster)," Harmon said.
After that meeting, Foster spoke with the Times and said he would not comment on whether Metz was leaving, saying he is no longer talking to the newspaper about ongoing matters. Anything related to the budget, he said, is an ongoing matter. Last year, some neighborhood leaders complained that Foster wasn't doing enough in cutting costs at the top of the administrative pay scale. They specifically named the jobs of Davis and Metz as places where Foster could start cutting. In next year's budget, the city is bracing for an $11 million deficit. In the coming weeks, Foster is expected to unveil a new organizational chart.
If Metz does go, don't expect as much fanfare that followed the departure of Davis.
Still, it would be big news in City Hall, where Metz, 57, earns the ninth highest salary in the city at $136,032. He reached his current position after an improbable climb through the tricky confines of city bureaucracy. A graduate of Boca Ciega High School and St. Petersburg Junior College, Metz joined the city in 1971, earning $1.81 an hour as a maintenance laborer at Twin Brooks Municipal Golf Course. He went to night school to get his bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida's business administration program, pulling down a 2.57 grade point average, as he moved up the ladder with the city, doing jobs such as pesticides sprayer and parks manager. He earned mostly above average marks on his performance evaluations until 1981, when his supervisor gave him superior marks, complimenting his leadership qualities. That supervisor was Rick Dodge, a powerful city administrator back then.
Metz's career took off after that, when Dodge became a mentor. He was made manager of the municipal marina in 1983. In 1986, he enrolled in USF's MPA program. He graduated in 1989 with a 3.5 GPA. He was named the marina and port director in 1998. By 2000, he was earning $65,619. He then retired.
But then-Mayor Rick Baker hired him back in 2003 as the city's Downtown Waterfront Enterprise Facilities director, where he started at $106,000. He got high marks from his immediate supervisor, Rick Mussett, for handling complex and controversial projects, such as the city's airport master plan, the redevelopment of the Progress Energy Center for the Arts, and marina planning, all the while "remaining calm and focused, often under significant pressure."
By 2007, Metz was Baker's Deputy Mayor for Neighborhoods, where he was lauded for establishing better relations between City Hall and neighborhood groups and helped oversee issues like community policing and the homeless. Under Foster, Metz worked closely with Elston, filling in for her at City Council meetings when she was absent.
-- Michael Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer