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. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  2. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pittsburgh stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32 (left), was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with boss Larry McCabe when he saw three men …

  3. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  4. College World Series title puts Florida Gators in elite company


    The Florida Gators put themselves in rare company with Tuesday night's College World Series national championship victory.

    Florida ace and Tampa native Alex Faedo (21) lets loose with his teammates after they win the Gators’ first baseball national title.
  5. Lightning prospects mantra: You never know when NHL chance will appear

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Brett Howden said he watched closely last season as former junior teammate Brayden Point made an remarkable rise to a Lightning regular in his first year pro.

    Lightning prospect Mikhail Sergachev skates during the Lightning Development Camp Wednesday at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]