Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jennene Norman-Vacha's tenure as Brooksville city manager is showing results

A perfect city manager would show up on time for every meeting and promptly return every phone call and would never, ever berate employees.

So, I guess Jennene Norman-Vacha has room for improvement.

On the other hand.

During her five years as manager, Brooksville has forced a bonding company to fork over money for undone work at the Southern Hills subdivision. The city has upgraded miles of crumbling old sewer pipe, won a grant to replace leaking septic tanks in south Brooksville, cut health insurance premiums for its workers, modernized ancient development rules, earned accreditation for its police department, beautified medians and installed welcome signs.

You say all this is too small-bore, too wonkish? Well, she's also helped persuade people with money and power to care about Brooksville's downtown, and for the first time in decades you don't have to be delusional to hope for its revival.

And more than that, Norman-Vacha has started to change the city's vision of its future, which used to be basically a tollgate to collect as much cash as possible from all of the development expected to come this way. She sees Brooksville as a place to do business, to eat, walk, shop and maybe get to know each other better — a real, full-functioning urban entity.

Most of the above accomplishments were included in a list provided by Norman-Vacha's steadiest supporter on City Council, Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn. Along with the rest of the council, she gave Norman-Vacha the best annual evaluation of her career on Monday night.

It wasn't unanimous. Council member Joe Bernardini brought up Norman-Vacha's deficiencies as a communicator with council members and, especially, employees. He called her "a very good doctor with a very poor bedside manner."

I've heard the same from some people in city hall — that when Norman-Vacha is unhappy, it's a good idea to keep your head down. I've also heard she's improving in this regard and, Bernardini said after the meeting, so has he. He just wants to see more improvement.

Another complaint is that she's been too connected with traditional businesses interests. For too long she ran to the city's contracted attorneys at Hogan Law Firm for advice even on routine matters. But here, too, we've seen signs — especially smaller monthly bills from the firm — that things are getting better.

And for an example of how Norman-Vacha can effectively deal with big shots, look back to the letter Realtor Robert Buckner sent the city in 2010. He pointed out that the publicly owned Quarry Golf Course had lost about $700,000 in the previous half-dozen years and all but demanded the city get out from under that burden.

Brooksville could have just abandoned the Quarry, creating a liability and an eyesore. Instead, it found a renter who has spruced up the course and believes in its future as a moneymaker.

The larger point is, with achievements and good reviews adding up, Norman-Vacha is becoming the kind of established public administrator that has been far too rare around here.

School superintendent Bryan Blavatt doesn't count because, unfortunately, he's already announced plans to leave next year. Despite their long tenures, neither do Norman-Vacha's predecessor, Dick Anderson, or former County Administrator Chuck Hetrick. Both of them survived largely by making themselves invisible.

So the county, which is once again searching for a new administrator, has never been able to find, keep and encourage independent, steady leadership. And to see its advantages, we've always had to look elsewhere — Pasco County or at the Citrus County School District. And now, maybe, Brooksville.

Jennene Norman-Vacha's tenure as Brooksville city manager is showing results 03/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Loggerhead sea turtle found in Islamorada resident's pool


    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on Monday, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys.

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on June 22, 2017, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys. [Photo from video]

  2. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  3. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players


    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  4. She doesn't care if you accept her, as long as you respect her

    Human Interest

    Mary Jane Taylor finds strength walking quietly among the dead.

    Mary Jane Taylor,18, visits Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa when she is feeling low. "When I hit my low points in life I go the the graveyard," she says. "people are afraid of the graveyard. I love the graveyard." The transgender teen recently graduated from Jefferson High School. She is  enrolled in summer classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville studying international business. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida, attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times)
  5. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — An investigative report, released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, into the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza included largely the same narrative prosecutors released this month that ruled the shooting a "justifiable homicide."

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.