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Tarpon Springs city manager told there's room to improve

TARPON SPRINGS — There are several areas where the city manager must improve if he expects to move the city in a healthy direction, says a performance evaluation by Tarpon Springs' mayor.

Mark LeCouris must focus on economic development and should take on more initiatives driven by elected commissioners instead of constantly following the city staff's direction, said Mayor Beverley Billiris. LeCouris should also continue to get more training, she added.

"It was fair, honest and objective," Billiris said of her evaluation. "I have a great deal of respect for the city manager and it's not personal. But he's evolving as a city manager and there are a lot of areas where he needs improvement."

Next month will mark a year since LeCouris took the reins as the city's full-time manager. In August 2008, he was named interim city manager after the commission forced Ellen Posivach to resign.

LeCouris, 52, was given six months to earn the job. The commission voted 3-2 to hire him in February 2009. Billiris was one of the nay votes and wanted a national search instead.

"In my self-evaluation, I think I've done better than I thought I would do," LeCouris said. "There is just so much, so many different things going on. You can deal with seven crises in one day in seven different areas.

"I'm used to pressure, but up here (at City Hall) there are just so many things. It's mind-boggling what you are juggling and having to decide what to dedicate the right amount of time on."

LeCouris was Tarpon's police chief for 15 years and served as director of administrative services from 1999 until he was named interim city manager in May 2008. He was in charge of several departments during that time.

"I don't think there is a move of the city going backward that anyone has seen," LeCouris said. "There is a legitimate reason to think someone with a 31-year career as a police officer can run the whole city. You can understand that. That's a legitimate question: Can this guy handle the job? But when I was interim city manager nine years ago, I never left City Hall. Ellen kept me here, and I think people forget that sometimes."

Billiris' strongest concerns were over economic development and the budget process. She also wants LeCouris to establish relationships with the city's state and federal elected representatives.

With economic development, Billiris wrote that she wants the city to be more proactive.

With the budget process, Billiris said she was "disappointed this year that you (LeCouris) clearly did not have the 'pulse' of the commission on the budget."

"Before you go to a vote, speak to each commissioner as to their stand on the budget so that there are not surprises," Billiris wrote.

The mayor also said she was not pleased that LeCouris sent out an article to residents with incorrect budget numbers, which caused confusion. "Do not release numbers unless they have been approved by the board," Billiris wrote.

LeCouris said his work with economic development is a matter of a differing philosophy.

"I'm working on the atmosphere so we can have something to offer to bring something in," LeCouris said. "A lot of the stuff you've seen us doing — sprucing up Mother Meres Park, the festivals — is making this a vibrant community again with business people excited about what's going on up here. The business community wasn't excited. They now know we are trying to bring more people to the docks, to downtown, to the city. In my mind, working on those things is economic development."

Reach Demorris A. Lee at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Tarpon Springs city manager told there's room to improve 01/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 6:34pm]
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