MADEIRA BEACH — Shane Crawford assumed command Tuesday after nearly a year when almost all of the top administrators resigned, were fired or were laid off.
The new city manager's day started with a staff meeting to listen to employee ideas and concerns and to discuss a planned reorganization of the city's administration.
"There needs to be more organization here and structure," Crawford said. "People need to come to work happy and ready to put in an eight-hour day. They need to know what they are doing and have rules to live by."
The 34-year-old Wisconsin native is eager to begin working on many of the infrastructure projects shepherded by Mayor Travis Palladeno and the City Commission.
Unlike previous city managers here, Crawford also serves as the city's public works director.
High on his priority list is developing a clear plan and funding alternatives to replace the deteriorating public works building and possibly build a new City Hall.
"This building project could be the city's opportunity to turn the page," he said.
He hopes that a year from now the city would have broken ground on a municipal complex.
One of the first items on his immediate priority list is filling the key positions left vacant after virtually all of the city's top administrators resigned, were fired or laid off when their positions were eliminated. Many who left cited the newly elected commission's policies and its attitudes toward city employees as their reasons for leaving.
The commission did hire a new city clerk and a new attorney, but permanent replacements for the finance and development directors, human resources manager and fire chief have yet to be made.
Crawford said he is focusing first on the planning and fire chief positions as part of a re-examination of the city's organization.
"I want to take a real close financial look to see if some of the positions are warranted. There is going to be a reorganization. We need to put people in the right slots to get things done," he said.
Crawford is "happy as a clam" to be in Madeira Beach. "I run every day," he said. "When I pass someone, they say hello and often more than that. Even going grocery shopping, people pull me aside and want to talk."
He also can't resist poking fun at his warm-weather neighbors.
"I was out with my dog and met a guy who asked me how I could be dressed in just shorts and a T-shirt. It just blew my mind that he was wearing earmuffs. It was only 55 degrees," said Crawford, who was most recently deputy administrator for Walworth County, Wis.
Crawford is living temporarily in Redington Beach "only 90 seconds" from his office in City Hall. He hopes to find permanent housing in the city which he views as his "turf."
"When I came here, I read articles and I knew things were happening," Crawford said, defending the commission's action over the past year. "It's not what the press made it out to be. … (the commission has) conducted business and taken progressive steps forward. It is a testament to the commission."
Some residents disagree. A group recently distributed a flier citywide asking other residents to join them in a recall effort targeting Commissioners Nancy Oakley and Robin Vander Velde. No formal action has been taken, however.
Palladeno, who is not a target of the possible recall, is intent to move the city into a more "vibrant" future.
"We are primed for growth," said Palladeno. "We have drawings for a new hotel about to be submitted, possible development of the old Leverocks property, new businesses opening and green homes being built. I am excited. You are seeing a turnaround in the economy happening first in Madeira Beach."
Palladeno and Crawford appear comfortable with their roles, the mayor as an active catalyst for change and the new city manager as a self-described "referee" who can offer "guidance" when the commission debates changes in city policies.
"We are a $15 million company that is entering a new chapter," Crawford said.