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Official adjusts to New Port Richey

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Gerald Seeber looked out the window of his second-floor office thinking about how his first year as city manager has been. He didn't think long. "Fast," he said, smiling. "It went by real quickly."

Just more than a year ago, Seeber became the city manager for New Port Richey. It has been a time for adjustments: Seeber got used to the pace of New Port Richey, and city officials and residents got used to the low-key style of their new administrator.

For Seeber, the past year has been a blur of activity. The first six months were spent learning more about what projects were important to the city. The others were spent trying to get those projects done. Meanwhile, he has had to learn about Florida government, meet with staffers and tend to the daily concerns of the city.

"I haven't had time to step back and reflect on it all," he said.

But others in the city have, and the opinions of both City Council and staff members are the same: Seeber has done a great job. And criticism is hard to come by.

"He is a breath of fresh air," said personnel director Jeff Sutton, who has worked with the city for six years. "There is more of a team atmosphere here than at any time I've been here in the past. The departments are working well together."

Seeber's strength lies in his ability to get others to do their best work, said City Council member Debra Prewitt. He has a hands-off approach with the city staff, she said.

"He gives confidence to the people who work around him," Prewitt said. "I believe he gets more work out of the people he works with because they feel they are on a team and he is the coach."

City Council member Dell deChant said Seeber's communications abilities are his greatest skill.

"He has the capacity to cut through a lot of the unnecessary material in order to put the facts before the council," he said. "He has a real gift."

Seeber said he is simply doing his job.

"My efforts focus on getting things done," he said.

Seeber, his wife and three children came to New Port Richey from Brown Deer, Wis., a Milwaukee suburb. One of the main reasons Seeber decided to accept the position in New Port Richey was the challenge of managing a growing city with a larger staff and budget, he said in earlier interviews.

The family likes the Florida sunshine and hardly misses the snowy winters of Wisconsin, Seeber said.

When he is not working on city business, Seeber coaches the West Pasco Youth Soccer League.

"That's fun, because relating to little people, you have to get to their level," Seeber said. "You're best off speaking in Nintendo terms."

Luck played a big part in Seeber's chosen career. As a college senior, he applied to Penn State for graduate school and wanted to study in a business-related field. Instead, he was awarded a fellowship there to study public administration, which made his career choice easy, he said.

"I had a job offer from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), but I turned it down once I got into graduate school," Seeber said. For the past 14 years municipal government has been his first love.

Seeber likes it best when the city builds things people can use. Projects such as improvements to Sims Park and the Senior Center are the more tangible products of city government. Other projects during his tenure include street repaving, construction of the new city hall and expansion of the waste-water treatment plant.

"I think a lot of (city government) is fundamentally paper pushing, and when it's all done, you have a nice piece of paper," he said. "But building something . . . that's rewarding."

The future looks about the same as the present for Seeber. Moving to a larger city isn't a priority. He would do it only if he thought both his family and the city would benefit from such a move. For the time being, he is satisfied right where he is.

"I see myself as the city manager at New Port Richey for the time being," he said. "My stated objective is still to continue to serve the city the best way I know how."