MADEIRA BEACH — Despite ongoing squabbles among commission members, a new interim manager joined the city this week and the choice for a permanent city manager has accepted the job.
Robert J. Daniels, fired in March as the town manager of Melbourne Beach, will run the city for at least the next 60 days, or until James D. Drumm can take the post on a permanent basis. Drumm, now the city manager of Brunswick, Ga., wants to negotiate a contract before making it official in Madeira Beach and planned to get in touch with the city's attorney, officials said.
Commissioners have been trying for weeks to find a successor to outgoing City Manager Jonathan Evans, who recently accepted an offer to return to his previous job as city manager of Riviera Beach. But they have been hamstrung by infighting and disagreements over who they should hire.
Evans' last day on the job in Madeira Beach was Tuesday.
Two candidates, one for the interim post and another for the permanent job, turned down offers from the commission last week, citing a lack of support from the panel.
In a special meeting Monday, Drumm was selected to be the permanent manager after the commission's first pick, Michele Neuner, dropped out because commissioner John Douthirt did not vote for her. Neuner said it was important for a new city manager to have the commission's complete support.
Drumm, meanwhile, was supported by only three of the five commissioners.
He told the commission he might have to give the city of Brunswick at least six weeks notice unless he could negotiate an earlier departure. That would mean he would not be able to come to Madeira Beach until late August.
In Brunswick, he supervises over 200 employees and a $46 million budget. A University of Florida graduate who grew up in Manatee and Polk counties, he has over 25 years of public management experience. He previously served as city manager in Zephyrhills, High Springs, and Lake Alfred, and as assistant city manager in Auburndale.
Drumm has particular experience in road construction, drainage, historic preservation, beach restoration, and community improvements. He holds a master's degree in public management.
In another development related to the city manager search, another of the five original short-listed candidates for the permanent post, a retired U.S. Navy Deputy Commander, sent a scathing email last week to withdraw from contention.
Andrew Butterfield said Mayor Maggi Black's comment that she was "not happy" with the collection of candidates at the beginning of their interviews was a "professional slap in the face" and convinced him that he had no interest in becoming the city's new manager.
"The people I met on the staff and the commission deserve a great city manager," Butterfield wrote. "I imagine it will be difficult finding one to take the position until there's a new mayor in Madeira Beach."
At the beginning of Tuesday's regular meeting, Vice Mayor Nancy Hodges read an impassioned letter telling her fellow commissioners "you should be ashamed" for allowing their animosities to affect commission decisions.
"Personal attacks have continued," She said. "When we come into the chambers they should be left at the door. … It is time to reflect on our mistakes."
Toward the end of the meeting, Evans, the outgoing manager, got into a near shouting match with Commissioner Doug Andrews over handling of personnel matters.
Andrews is a frequent critic of both the commission and the administration. He is a former city recreation department director who was fired by then-acting city manager and current fire chief Derryl O'Neal.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, commissioners praised Evans for his leadership while in Madeira Beach.
Daniels, the interim replacement, is being paid the equivalent of a $125,000 salary and a housing stipend of $2,000 a month while he is here. In Melbourne Beach, where he earned $96,500 annually, he was fired on a 4-1 vote for "dissatisfaction with the town manager's leadership, planning, implementation and follow-through," according to a report in Florida Today.