View of the intracoastal from Veteran's Park in Delray Beach. On Tuesday, the Delray Beach City Council selected a new city manager.

New City Manager for Delray, Boca Election Updates and Other News

View of the intracoastal from Veteran's Park in Delray Beach. On Tuesday, the Delray Beach City Council selected a new city manager.

View of the intracoastal from Veteran’s Park in Delray Beach. On Tuesday, the Delray Beach City Council selected a new city manager.

New city manager

Delray Beach residents can be proud of how their elected officials chose the city’s next CEO.

In a special meeting late Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Cary Glickstein and the city commission unanimously chose Mark Lauzier, an assistant city manager in Tacoma, Wash. No one grandstanded. Everyone offered credible reasoning. Commissioner Shelly Petrolia made a good case for the other finalist, Edward Collins. When it became clear that sentiment favored Lauzier, however, Petrolia joined the 5-0 vote without hesitation.

Assuming City Attorney Max Lohman and the city’s headhunter can work out a contract, Lauzier will start without having to worry that a commission faction might be seeking to undermine him. The commission also ignored the social-media natterers who worry more about themselves than the city.

As the headhunter acknowledged last month, the city drew fewer applicants than the commission might have imagined. Commissioner Jim Chard complained that the rules had been too restrictive. Yet Chard acknowledged Tuesday that the search had resulted in two good candidates. He was correct.

Ideally, Delray Beach wanted either someone who had successfully run a smaller city and wanted to move up or someone who had been a successful assistant at a larger city. Collins had been the manager of Lehi, Utah, which is smaller than Delray, during a decade of rapid growth. Lauzier has been an assistant in Tacoma, which is three times larger than Delray Beach. For good measure, he had been the manager in Parkland, west of Deerfield Beach.

Two key factors worked for Lauzier. He has lots of Florida experience—Collins has none—and he has worked in cities with racial and ethnic diversity similar to Delray Beach. Collins’ record is in homogenous cities. Also, Lauzier’s experience is current. Collins has been an engineer in private business for roughly the last 10 years.

Collins, though, was impressive. Petrolia noted that he had been speaking with city residents about what they wanted from their government. He pointed out that “social media has changed the culture of local government”—and not for the better. Lehi, Collins said, has the second-largest community redevelopment agency in Utah. Working with the CRA is a big part of being manager in Delray Beach.

During his remarks before the vote, however, Lauzier hit all the points the commission has emphasized: building relationships among city employees and with agencies like the CRA and Downtown Development Authority, and “a sincere commitment to diversity.” Indeed, he dwelled on those and other points so long that Glickstein—who had asked the candidates to be brief—jokingly said, “If you get the job, we’re going to have to have a couple of meetings on ‘brief.’ “

When the commission discusses big issues, Glickstein normally defers. This time, he went first and set the tone.

Glickstein said he had spoken with several of Lauzier’s current and former supervisors, all of whom praised him. The most notable was Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who earlier had been the manager in Tacoma and had recruited Lauzier, with whom he had worked with in Pompano Beach, for the job he now holds.

In an email Wednesday, Glickstein said he heard “across the board very strong and detailed recommendations as to his positive impact in each city, which, except for Parkland, are all larger, full-service cities with much larger populations, city budgets and city employees to oversee, but cities with many of the same demographics, local government challenges and opportunities we have in Delray Beach.”

No one can know how Lauzier will work out, but I think the commission made the right choice and did so in the right way.

Working out the contract

Lauzier’s employment won’t be official until the commission approves his contract. With luck, Lohman can give the commission a proposed contract for Tuesday’s regular meeting. The next scheduled meeting is Nov. 7. Interestingly, the Jupiter Town Council on Monday night made Lauzier a finalist for the manager’s job in that city. The council will interview the four candidates on Nov. 6.

Delray Beach advertised the manager’s job at a salary range of between $200,000 and $275,000. Lauzier makes nearly $194,000 in Tacoma.

Interim City Manager Neal de Jesus cautioned the commission against trying to “lowball” Lauzier. Ten months after De Jesus took over for Don Cooper expecting to stay three or four months, he’s understandably eager to resume his job as fire chief. His point, however, is sound. There’s no point in losing a good candidate over $10,000.

Comparisons

When Delray Beach last chose a permanent manager in November 2014, the vote also was unanimous. The commission also praised the choice, Don Cooper.

There are key differences, though, between Cooper and Lauzier. Cooper had been the manager of Port St. Lucie for two decades, but he was out of government when the commission hired him. It appeared that Cooper wanted one last turn as a manager before retiring. But the job began to wear on Cooper from the start. In contrast, Lauzier would come with what Glickstein called “a full tank of gas.” He’s been preparing for the job.

Cooper never moved to Delray Beach. He commuted to and from Port St. Lucie on weekends, in part because of his wife’s health issues. That schedule drained Cooper and never let him get a feel for the city. Lauzier told me Wednesday that he intends to live in the city.

Delray is scary good

It probably isn’t one of the reasons that drew Lauzier to Delray Beach, but Travel & Leisure just named the city one of the country’s best Halloween destinations for tourists.

The magazine said:

“There’s no autumn crispness in the air here, but that makes it all the easier for children to show off costumes at the Halloween Parade and in Trick-or-Treat Along the Avenue. Afterward, families head to Kidsfest in Veterans Park for food, crafts, bounce houses, and live entertainment to complete their “spook-tacular Halloween.” It’s the kind of laid-back fun that attracts tourists to the beach town of Delray, whatever the season.”

Boca’s next election

Boca Raton City Council members Jeremy Rodgers and Robert Weinroth continue to have no opponents in their re-election bids next March, but they continue to raise money as if they will face a contested election.

Weinroth had a fundraiser late last month. Rodgers has one tonight. Both have filed their campaign finance reports for August. Weinroth had his best month, raising almost $26,000 and boosting his total to nearly $61,000. Rodgers raised $6,700, for a total of about $20,000. That number includes a $5,000 loan from Rodgers.

Both council members received money from the Dunay, Miskel and Backman law firm that represented Mizner 200. Weinroth got $1,000 from James Batmasian and Rodgers got $1,000 from Marta Batmasian. The Batmasians’ company, Investments Limited, owns Royal Palm Place. Investments Limited is seeking council approval for Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place’s redevelopment. Weinroth and Rodgers also got contributions from Penn-Florida, developers of Via Mizner and University Village.

In addition, Weinroth got $1,000 from Related, which has proposed building a performing arts center in the new downtown campus if the city gave the company the land where the Mizner Amphitheater stands.

The amphitheater rumor

That decision on the amphitheater is one of many the city council will have to make regarding Boca Raton’s downtown government/civic campus. Though no council member publicly supports the swap that Related wants—a secretive website is pushing the falsehood that the deal is done—I can see a potential problem.

During Tuesday’s workshop meeting, the city’s consultant outlined the results of a public forum in June that sought ideas for the campus. Participants strongly favored a performing arts center in the campus. They were divided, though, on including an amphitheater and whether that could mean moving the amphitheater from Mizner Park.

But would a performance hall in the campus be redundant with an amphitheater, whichever side of Federal Highway it might be on? Should the city, which runs it, make the amphitheater able to stage more events by adding a retractable roof?

Another issue is the parking garage that nearly all participants want in the campus. Should it be in the campus itself, west of the FEC railroad tracks, or downtown? If it’s downtown, the city might have to take land by eminent domain. That would require a 4-1 council vote and could delay the project if litigation resulted.

No answers emerged Tuesday. The most important question is how much the campus would cost. Despite the mushiness from the council, the consultant said numbers would begin to emerge after the next phase of the study, for which the consultant will need a new work order.

The city will attempt to survey as many residents as possible regarding the campus. There also may be another public meeting. Boca Raton now needs to define some specifics and identify sources of money for what the consultant calls a “legacy.”

The medical marijuana issue

Tuesday night’s meeting included the first of two public hearings on Boca Raton’s ordinance that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Only two people spoke. Both opposed the ban.

After voters last year approved the use of marijuana in Florida for “debilitating medical conditions,” the Legislature got hissy and told cities and counties that they only could allow marijuana dispensaries anywhere pharmacies operate or ban them.

Delray Beach has banned dispensaries for a year. Boynton Beach has allowed them. The second hearing will take place on Oct. 24. Perhaps more speakers will show when the council is set to vote, as happened with the attempt to regulate holiday displays in Sanborn Square.

Public remarks discussion

Sad but true. The Boca Raton City Council spent about as much time Tuesday afternoon discussing when the public should speak at meetings as about what should go on the downtown campus.

Boca Raton allows random public remarks—as opposed to comments about agenda items—closer to the end of the meeting than the beginning. Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke, ever ready to present herself as the people’s champion, proposed moving up that slot so the usual suspects could leave earlier.

There ensued a tortuous exchange. Robert Weinroth was opposed. So was Jeremy Rodgers, who noted that the change would mean a longer wait for those who wanted to comment on matters before the council. Mayor Susan Haynie pointed out that the city once held workshop meetings before community redevelopment agency meetings on Monday afternoons. Residents who wanted to address the council knew that they could come at 1:30 p.m. with a good idea of when they could speak. CRA meetings now come first. Should the city switch back?

The council ultimately made no decision. Good. O’Rourke is seeking a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Yes, some meetings run long. A recent one ran so long that a consultant couldn’t stay. But residents who have their pet ideas and don’t want to risk wasting hours can use this wonderful invention called email and send their thoughts to the mayor and council.

The irony is that a discussion about meetings running long itself went on too long.


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Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

  • Glenn E. Gromann

    Good article, no one ever said that the amphitheater or it’s equivalent was going away? Do people really oppose AC, fixed seats and plenty of parking? The recent hurricane seemed to dispel the love of no AC, no electricity, no parking, etc. I don’t see a strong lobby for being outside in 95 degrees or there being an “insect” lobby which would include Zika, West Nile and the dangers of open venues with lots of people. That being said there is a lot of flexibility for the City to score a win-win with LOTS of open space (I would love a European style Palazzo) Art and an outside party (Related) relieving the taxpayer of some of the cost burden. People need to keep an open mind and I think they actually are in this case. The Art Museum needs more space as well. Parking garages for all!

  • ROBERT S WEINROTH

    I think you are being unduly harsh with respect to the Council’s discussion relative to public requests. As you know, we have the little thing called Sunshine to which we must abide That means between meetings we can say less to one another about anything having to do with the operation of our municipality than anyone else. In other words, the five individuals empowered to make the important decisions impacting our city and its residents are left talking about the weather or how great it is that Lane Kiffin has infused the FAU Football program with new life.

    The workshop is designed to be a freeform opportunity for us to sound each other out and determine if there is a consensus to take action. No votes are taken but, used properly, the workshop offers us a chance to put ideas on the table. That you found the discussion on Council Member O’Rourke’s proposal “tortuous” is truly unfair. If the Council needs to look over its shoulder to see if the gallery is bored by its discussion it could have a chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas.

    Nobody should feel it’s an imposition to raise an issue and discussion, albeit pretty boring to our audience, since this is the way we build consensus.

    I agree email is a very potent tool for getting a message to the Mayor and Council Members but this does not mean the personal public request doesn’t make an impression on us. There are ample reasons to be critical of the process but it is my fervent belief that workshops are like a scratch pad — they are good for doodling and they are good for planning. If it means solutions are proposed when problems are not evident, let us work it out, in the sunshine.

    Good government can be boring but transparency doesn’t guarantee that every discussion is going to keep observers on the edge of their seats.