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Beach city manager to workers: Quit if you want — I'll even pay you to leave

Shane Crawford became city manager in 2012.
Shane Crawford became city manager in 2012.
Published Jul. 3, 2014

MADEIRA BEACH — A recent memo to city workers in this affluent beach city of 4,300 read something like this: Don't like your job? Then quit — and get a six-month severance bonus.

City Manager Shane Crawford said he has no major issues with his staff of roughly 50, but heard some employees wanted to retire, wished they had a different job or felt underpaid.

"Google and Microsoft both offer a program like this, and I think it makes a lot of sense for both employers and employees," Crawford said in a recent memo to employees. "At certain points in all of our careers, we've all dreaded going to a job. Whether it was the people we worked with, the boss, or the actual work itself, hating the act of going to work can be miserable."

Crawford, 36, took over management of this beach community most known as home to John's Pass Village and Boardwalk in 2012 after a year of political turmoil. The city manager and almost all of the administrative staff had resigned after the election of a new commission.

"When that commission came in, they were novice public officials and no one would send in resumes," said Commissioner Terry Lister, who was first elected in 2008. "Now it is entirely different and Shane has gotten Madeira Beach on fire. We are getting top-line people."

But not everyone likes Crawford's fast-paced management style, a fact he and commissioners all acknowledged.

Crawford said he talked privately with the city's five commissioners about the concept but didn't share all of the details.

When reached Wednesday, commissioners didn't seem concerned about the offer, which could cost $1.68 million in salaries and benefits if every employee left.

"It is just good management style to have people leave and be happy," Lister said.

"We love what he is doing. We trust him implicitly," said Commissioner Elaine Poe.

Under Crawford's leadership, Madeira Beach is aggressively rebuilding its infrastructure, including its City Hall, fire station and recreation complex, as well as repairing an aging stormwater system that frequently floods neighborhoods. A new hotel is under construction near the causeway.

Crawford, who earns $124,125 a year, has made many organizational changes, including contracting out landscaping maintenance after disbanding the parks department. He briefly considered contracting out sanitation service, as well, but changed his mind after commissioners and residents opposed the idea.

Last month, Crawford mailed letters to the city's nearly 3,000 property owners reminding them that they could face $500-a-day fines if they illegally rent their homes to tourists. City officials said they found too many homes advertised to tourists on the Internet in violation of city codes that require rentals of a year or longer.

In Crawford's latest missive, he gave employees until the end of today to signal their interest.

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In order to get the six-month package, employees would have to resign voluntarily and agree never to work for the city again.

Crawford said he expects only a handful of employees to take it.

When asked what he would do if all or a substantial number of employees opt into the plan, Crawford laughed and said he "would be in trouble."

Employee salaries range from $10 to $40 an hour.

Finance director Vince Tenaglia said he could not estimate the actual cost until he knows exactly which employees take it. Commissioners said they could easily absorb the cost of up to a half-dozen buyouts.