Dunedin City Manager Rob DiSpirito has finished his second year on the job in an enviable position: praised by his bosses, appreciated by his staff and embraced by many in the community. The problem, Mayor Bob Hackworth said recently, will be keeping him.
DiSpirito's record was achieved through hard work, creativity and a gift for diplomacy. He also has been a calming force in a city government that had been disrupted by a difficult city manager change.
Dunedin city commissioners recently completed DiSpirito's annual evaluation, and when they discussed the results publicly Jan. 22, the City Commission meeting turned into a lovefest.
DiSpirito "rolls up his sleeves and works as hard as anyone else," said Commissioner Dave Eggers.
"He's a listener. But he's not afraid to tell you he disagrees with you, which I like," said Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski.
"His accessibility is legendary," said Commissioner Deborah Kynes.
Even the city clerk and city attorney sang his praises.
"Yeah, we got a really good city manager here," summed up Hackworth.
Commissioner Julie Scales, also praising DiSpirito, made a motion to give him a 3 percent raise, which was approved 5-0 without a moment's hesitation.
Hackworth will be leaving the commission in March, but he told the other members of the commission that one of their challenges will be to make sure the city manager doesn't get overwhelmed and is rewarded for the work he does.
DiSpirito's performance was particularly impressive in two areas mentioned by the commissioners: paring down the city budget, and acquiring the Weaver property for parkland.
Scales noted that DiSpirito took the time to search for real efficiencies in developing a budget, intent on preserving as many services and jobs as possible.
To obtain the Weaver property for the city, DiSpirito and his staff beat the bushes for grant dollars and created partnerships with the state, county and local companies to obtain the land with little impact on city taxpayers.
Not specifically mentioned by commissioners, but certainly worthy of praise, is DiSpirito's emphasis on operating a transparent city government. Since he arrived in January 2007, the city's Web site has been improved, streaming video of commission meetings is available, and the city is preparing to begin televising other city meetings as well.
No one was surprised when DiSpirito responded to all the accolades by saying, "I accomplished nothing by myself," and praising his "terrific" staff.
"It's a joy to work with everybody, including the commission and the public," he said.
The feeling, clearly, is mutual.