Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New Port Richey city manager gets high marks for first year

NEW PORT RICHEY — Ever since the black-and-white photographs of old New Port Richey went up on the walls of City Hall last year, Tom O'Neill has found himself stopping to study those bygone scenes.

He appreciates the city's history. So far, the city seems to appreciate his history, too.

O'Neill, 55, has nearly finished his first year as city manager, a position he took after working for the city for nearly 35 years.

City Council members say the relationships he built and lessons he learned working his way up have paid off in a number of ways, from high employee morale to an easy and accessible manner dealing with both elected officials and residents.

"He's just Johnny-on-the-spot," council member Marilynn deChant said. "I attribute that to Tom being with our city for nearly 35 years."

At the end of last week's council meeting, all five members praised O'Neill's work over the past year and said they want him to continue in the position. They have not performed a formal review; his one-year contract, which expires next month, will be placed on a future council agenda.

The meeting stood in sharp contrast to what happened in their next-door neighbors' city just last month.

The Port Richey City Council held a contentious meeting at which it ousted Richard Reade, the manager of one year. That meeting included finger-pointing, insults and booing.

O'Neill, who is paid about $110,000 a year, said his long history with the city, and the fact that he lives in town, make a huge difference.

"This has been my entire adult life," O'Neill said. "This city has given me my entire career."

O'Neill said he's happy with a number of accomplishments in his first year, including the completion of the first phase of the Railroad Square streetscaping project, the near completion of a new public works facility and the completion of the $2-million drainage project on Missouri Avenue.

This year will have more challenges, not least of which is putting together a lean budget. The city eliminated 11 positions in the current fiscal year, all through attrition and retirement.

But O'Neill said he wants to think big, too, and is proposing that City Council members hire a consultant to come up with a new downtown revitalization plan, which would look at such things as public incentives, architectural guidelines and uses for city-owner properties.

He said his timing — namely, the down economy — is no coincidence.

"What better time to do it?" he said. "Then we're poised and ready when there's an upswing."

The most obvious redevelopment problem on his hands? The stalled Main Street Landing project, which has left the downtown with an abandoned construction site.

O'Neill was publicly optimistic about its prospects for most of the year before taking a more aggressive tack around December, asking council members to consider suing developer Ken McGurn. Discussion of potential legal action is on the agenda for Tuesday night's Community Redevelopment Agency meeting.

"We want to have an image of success in the city," he said, "and right now that is not an image of success."

Given that his employees did not get raises this year, O'Neill said he is not asking for one either. He noted, too, that his first job was as a laborer in the Public Works Department.

"In my first year, I made a little over $5,000," he said. "How can I complain?"

Jodie Tillman can be reached at or (727) 869-6247.

New Port Richey city manager gets high marks for first year 01/11/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 6:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Offense gets some juggling

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The night after scoring six runs to emerge from what had been a historically fallow offensive stretch seemed like an odd time to make changes to the lineup, but that was exactly what the Rays did for Wednesday's late game against the Blue Jays.

    Associated Press
  2. Dunedin man accused of possessing child pornography


    DUNEDIN — A 57-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, accused of intentionally downloading child pornography, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Richard Beal Anger, 57, of Dunedin faces 11 counts of possession of child pornography. [Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Pence cuts short Latin America trip and pressures Chile to sever all ties to North Korea


    SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his Latin America trip by one day to return to Washington for a strategy meeting Friday at Camp David with President Donald Trump and the national security team.

    Vice President Mike Pence urged Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take a tougher stand against North Korea on Wednesday in Santiago, Chile.
  4. Big Ben backlash: Plan to silence beloved bell under review


    LONDON — British Parliament officials said Wednesday they will review plans to silence Big Ben during four years of repairs after senior politicians criticized the lengthy muting of the beloved bell.

  5. UF's move to deny white nationalist Richard Spencer a venue sets up a First Amendment court fight


    In denying a notorious white nationalist his request to speak on campus, the University of Florida has brought a thorny legal battle to Gainesville in the name of keeping its students safe.

    Legal experts say the University of Florida will have an uphill battle in court proving that fears of violence from an appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer will override the First Amendment. "There's a fine line between inciting lawlessness and engendering a situation where lawlessness arises," said Peter Lake, higher education law professor at Stetson University College of Law. [Getting Images]