How long have you been an FCCMA member, and why did you join?
I have been a member of FCCMA for 13 years. I became a member when my then boss and mentor Micah Maxwell brought me to the annual conference when I was still an MPA student at USF, just beginning my career at Belleair.
Are you an ICMA member, why did you join, and how long have you been a member?
Not only am I an ICMA member, but I am also an ICMA Credentialed Manager and Graduate of Leadership ICMA and serve on the Committee of Leadership ICMA Champions. I find ICMA to be incredibly valuable as mid-career manager.
Please describe your areas of formal/advanced education.
I received a Bachelor of Arts as a Political Science Major, with a Minor in Leadership in 2004 from the University of South Florida. I loved USF so much that I decided to stay and earn a Master of Public Administration in 2007. #GoBulls
Why did you select a career in public service?
My father served in the Army and was a Miami Beach Police officer for 25 years; my brother served in the Navy. So the idea of servant leadership was with me from an early age. If there was one defining moment for me, it would be how neighbors and local government came together following Hurricane Andrew to pick up what precious pieces were left to rebuild a community. As a child, the local response was immensely impactful.
Have you always been in the public sector, or have you had experience in the private sector?
All of my career post-graduation has been in local government. However, I held three jobs simultaneously in college, ranging from conducting the night audit at a local hotel to being the General Manager of a popular night club in Ybor City. Before that, I worked in the food service industry. I think everyone should work at a restaurant at least once in their life. You learn a lot about how people treat each other and how to deal with issues with grace.
Please tell us about your current position.
I am the Town Manager for the biggest little town in Pinellas County. The Town of Belleair is a community of over 4,000 residents in 2.5 square miles. Unique to Belleair is the Historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel, one of Florida’s two natural bluffs, and the home of Florida’s oldest country club. Belleair is also home to 54 holes of Donald Ross designed golf.
As the Chief Executive Officer, I call Belleair the biggest little town because the Town owns and maintains its own water generation, treatment & distribution utility, a stormwater utility, and solid waste collection utility. General governmental services directly offered by the town include police, planning & building permitting, a robust system of over 19 parks and recreational facilities, public works and of course, general administration. We have excellent intergovernmental cooperation with neighboring cities like Largo, who provides Fire suppression services and the City of Clearwater who provides single stream recycling collection for the town. Pinellas County is the purveyor of our waste water system. One unique challenge we have is, of the 44 curb miles in town, 43.75 are the sole responsibility of the Town of Belleair with no federal, state or county roads running through town.
Please describe your typical day.
My typical day is far from typical; every day is different in a small town. With limited resources and broad responsibilities, our staff wears many hats. These days I have the pleasure of working with staff and our commission to develop the town’s first-ever strategic plan. Also, we’re beginning to tie allocation of resources to strategic priorities through program based budgeting. Capital Infrastructure Planning is a big focus for our town right now, as half of the previously mentioned infrastructure requires end of life reconstruction, and as we’re all aware construction cost is outpacing our ability to address the problems as quickly as the public demands.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I think one of the aspects of this job that is so rewarding is the connections you get to make within the community. Given Belleair’s size, I’m provided the opportunity to connect with residents who have a problem and help the commission find solutions. With that comes the lasting gratification that you’ve improved your residents lives in some meaningful way. The size of the community also provides such a great breadth of hands-on experience on a diverse set of topics Never as an MPA student did I imagine that I’d be part of golf course acquisition or become a licensed drone pilot.
What is your least favorite part of the job?
My least favorite part of this job is probably the disappointing way some residents denigrate our staff and elected officials. I think some folks have truly lost the art of civil discourse and resort to personal attacks, vitriolic lies, and thinly veiled threats. Hyperbole aside, I think a great number of our staff, and our elected officials, who in Belleair are volunteers, want to make Belleair a better place and personal attacks can be challenging for them to continue to find the motivation to keep contributing. If we keep criticizing those who do try to make a difference, soon we will be left with those who won’t.
What is your most memorable experience on the job?
I’ll never forget our response to Hurricane Irma, and the bonds that the staff that I built staying in our EOC together for nearly a week. It was my first six months on the job, and my first emergency event as the manager, and I wasn’t sure how it would go. Our team came together, and we led one of the fastest recovery efforts in Pinellas County. Our Commission and residents expressed their delight at our responsiveness, and that solidified us as a team. I learned that our immediate presence physically out in the community after the storm was invaluable for our residents, just as I learned 25 years earlier. I’ll never forget all of the many lessons I learned that year and that a great team will never cease to amaze you.
What are your hobbies/interests?
I’m an avid fisherman, though I’m not as good as Casey Cook. Most weekends you’ll find me out on the boat with my Miniature Australian Shepherd, Pebbles! (her name includes the exclamation point). I enjoy building things and tinkering with technology; I’m currently learning 3d printing. As I mentioned previously, I’m a licensed drone pilot, and I’m beginning to enjoy the photographic aspects of that hobby. I love anything with a motor, notably open-wheeled racing. I home brew beer and have been known to smoke meats on occasion. I also enjoy golf, mostly disc golf, but I think possessing a mediocre ball golf game is somewhere in my job description.
If you could give one piece of advice to people interested in a career in public service, what would it be?
Seek alignment with an organization that shares your values. More than anything, fulfillment in this field comes from doing for others. Moreover, learn how the finances work, you can always be an asset if you understand the money.
Who were your mentors, and how have you passed this information down to other aspiring public administrators?
Micah Maxwell was not only a great boss but a great mentor. He taught me the value of professional development and trusting the team around you. He is chiefly responsible for the program of the continued development of young talent here at Belleair. By investing in our staff and giving them the tools they need to succeed, we’ve been able to achieve much more than most organizations our size.
What career would you pick if you were to pick another?
I would be Tony Stark or a race car driver, I can’t decide. In all seriousness, I’d probably pursue a career as a futurist, I think that it’s easily one of the coolest fields I can think of. The work that Rebecca Ryan does is so immensely fascinating to me. ENTP in case you were wondering.
Do you have a story you can share about how being a member of FCCMA has helped you or impacted you in a positive way?
For me, FCCMA has always been inspirational and educational. I can remember as an MPA student at a conference learning from our great voices of leadership like Bill Horne, and Lee Feldman and just being inspired to go out and do amazing things. Being inspired by Carl Harness to reach a hand out to others, and learning about our unique ethics model from amazing conversations with Joyce Shanahan. I’ve learned so much from district training and “so you wanna be a…” sessions over the years. My membership has been invaluable, and so too are the professional friendships I’ve forged over the years. During difficult decisions, I’ve often reached out to another member for advice and support, and everyone has always had a listening ear and earnest experiences they’re willing to share.