Brooksville city manager gets average rating from council

BROOKSVILLE — City Council members appear pleased with the job City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha has been doing and will consider offering her a one-year extension on her contract Monday.

Cumulatively, the council gave Norman-Vacha a C+ on her annual evaluation, earning a 3.47 out of a possible 5. Three of the five members expressed mostly positive views on her job performance. Council member Joe Bernardini and Richard Lewis, who was on the council when the evaluation took place, offered lower than average marks.

Council member Emory Pierce, who took office in December, did not take part in this evaluation.

Council member Lara Bradburn praised Norman-Vacha's ability to increase city services while cutting costs; her knowledge in community relations; and her work toward attracting businesses to the city. Those sentiments were also echoed by Mayor Frankie Burnett and Vice Mayor Joe Johnston III.

Lewis, who at one time asked for Norman-Vacha's resignation, was less kind, saying that she frequently failed to keep council members informed on important issues.

Bernardini had similar complaints, and criticized Norman-Vacha's punctuality and failure to follow up on requests for information.

"I am further disheartened when a member of the public presents more complete and accurate figures regarding the fire assessment," Bernardini wrote in his comments to Norman-Vacha, referencing an issue over the fees residents pay for fire service. "It is imperative that we improve this communication gap."

Norman-Vacha, who earns $89,336 a year, was hired in 2007 to replace longtime City Manager Richard Anderson. But she wasn't the council's first choice. That was Mitchell Bobowski, former general services director for the city of Seminole, who took himself out of the running.

A former deputy county administrator who ran a private human resources consulting business before taking the Brooksville job, Norman-Vacha took charge of the city at a time when key department heads, including the police chief and city attorney, had departed and the growing recession was forcing some major fiscal belt-tightening.

In addition to setting a hiring freeze, Norman-Vacha oversaw major realignments in several departments and initiated cost-cutting measures in areas such as energy conservation and purchasing. In addition, she worked out a contract for the sheriff to take over dispatching the 911 emergency calls, which saved the city about $196,000 a year.

In 2009, she fired Pierce from the public works director job he had held for nearly 13 years after she said he had allowed unauthorized work to take place in the construction of the city's portion of the Good Neighbor Trail project. Pierce denied the accusation.

While she expressed some dissatisfaction Wednesday about her job evaluation, Norman-Vacha said she intends to "work hard to get an A next time."

Meanwhile, Norman-Vacha contends she still enjoys her job and its challenges, and has every intention of remaining in the position as long as the council wishes.

"We're making good progress, even in tough times," she said. "I'm looking forward to keeping that momentum going and being ready to take advantage of the opportunities for the city that lie ahead."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Brooksville city manager gets average rating from council 03/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 6:53pm]

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