Mayor needs ‘strong, smart, loyal people not looking for glory’
Mayor Alvin Brown’s Personnel Transition Committee recommended six early priority jobs to fill and only one appears to remain open – chief economic development officer.
The other five appointments are Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Hyde, Chief of Staff Chris Hand, Communications Director Abel Harding, City Council Liaison Jessica Deal and Chief Education Officer Donnie Horner, who was named “education commissioner.”
“The mayor has not announced or appointed a chief economic development officer,” said Harding.
“That suggestion, like all others from the various transition committees, will be carefully considered as Mayor Brown lays out his vision in the coming months,” he said.
Also, last week Brown accepted the resignation of Jacksonville Economic Development Commission Executive Director Ron Barton, who submitted his resignation as a standard procedure as the new administration took office. Barton’s last date of employment with the City is Sept. 30.
Brown’s personnel committee consisted of two people — Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce President Wally Lee and former University of North Florida President and past chamber Chair Adam Herbert.
Meanwhile, chamber Executive Vice President Jerry Mallot and Jacksonville Civic Council Executive Director Don Shea are working toward developing an economic development strategy for Brown.
The committee report also talks about the position of general counsel, which has not been named. General Counsel Cindy Laquidara intends to remain in the role until Sept. 30.
The report said the recommendations have, in part, resulted from conversations with Jacksonville citizens, “all of whom have had considerable experience with the City government either as employees or as non-employee users of municipal services.”
Under a “compilation of notes” section, 11 comments concerning the general counsel’s position included the suggestion that a committee should be formed to recommend 3-4 names to Brown; that there should be no salary ceiling; that the position probably should not be any more “politicized than (it) already is” and that there should be consideration of “pulling from (a) judicial position.”
The notes section listed five comments about the JEDC, not calling it “chief economic development officer.”
Those comments included looking at the pros and cons of the existing structure and staff; being intentional about what the mayor wants to achieve; and organizing around Downtown, bringing in staff with Downtown-specific talents.
Comments also included that many projects are under way and the area “may need continuity now through (the) end of year.”
Since the report was presented Aug. 8, Brown also has announced he will cut 50 mayoral appointees from his staff as well as launch a reorganization of City government.
Brown has accepted nine resignations, including Barton’s.
Among the committee’s overall recommendations:
• Staff the administration in a “cascading” fashion, meaning that chiefs should hire their direct staffs, followed by department directors hiring their staffs, and their division chiefs hiring their employees.
• Review all departments for possible restructuring or consolidation.
• The chief administrative officer should review each open position, each deputy director position and each “appointed employee” position to determine the costs and benefits of each.
• The communications team should implement “an aggressive and continuing social media initiative.”
• The administration should consider designating a single point of contact for all pension issues.
• It should ensure appropriate staffing and expertise for labor negotiations.
• Consider creating three groups to report directly to the director of public works: capital projects (construction and engineering); regulatory; and operations and maintenance.
• Appoint people with a “big picture” view of their roles to boards and commissions to insure their decisions are made in the best interest of the community, “not just what is in the best interest of the board or commission.”
• “Implement a robust performance appraisal system” and use it consistently throughout City government.
• Work with local colleges and universities to develop a comprehensive internship program.
• Start a succession plan for key positions.
• Reinforce diversity, teamwork, presentation skills and time management.
As for budgetary implications, the committee report said “immediate cost savings” can be gained by commissioning an organizational assessment by a loaned executive in combination with recommendations from other transition committees.
The assessment would “identify potential efficiencies in the staffing structure of the approximately 200 political appointees.”
The report included a proposed City organizational chart that showed the CAO as a direct report to the mayor. It showed the JEDC as a direct line to the mayor as well.
Reporting to the CAO would be the directors of eight departments: planning and development; public works; parks and recreation; community services; central operations; fire and rescue; finance; and information technology support.
The “compilation of notes” covered several areas in addition to JEDC and general counsel. Among the comments:
• Surround the mayor “with strong, smart, loyal people not looking for glory.”
• The chief of staff needs to be “intelligent, strategic, politically savvy.”
• The chief administrative officer needs to be “tough, organized, committed and (a) strong city manager with experience running government.”
• “Avoid creating positions for people vs. finding (the) right people for the positions needed.”
• The chief of staff should be the “first and last person (the) mayor talks to every day.”
• The chief administrative officer and the director of communications both should make “the mayor look good.”
• The chief administrative officer “must be tough, tough, tough!” and “must be a strong leader who does not want to be mayor.”
• The director of communications should be “someone who is available and ready to talk to media night and day about topics that are often negative.”
• Regarding the assistant management improvement officers, called AMIOS, the list of 200 positions should be examined to “see if (the) right people are in (the) right spots” and to see if all of the positions are still needed.
• City Council management staff needs a “clear understanding” of the Council’s role compared with the mayor.
• Central Services represents opportunities for “potential savings of $30-60 million in this department alone.”
• Consolidation resulted in information technology “building its own software when there may be better and less expensive products at Office Depot.”
Another appendix included “detailed input from conversations with interested parties” that included comments about the positions of deputy director and other positions.
Included in the report was an observation from “conversations with interested parties” that “the very existence of the Neighborhoods Department has been questioned.“
“The department is generally perceived to be ineffective and has grown over time in a seemingly unplanned and not very thoughtful way.”
The report also said the Inspector General Office might be a duplication in some form with the Council Auditor’s office, “and perhaps an opportunity to garner some administrative cost savings.”
One other “consistent theme” referred to a former mayor and the current president of UNF: “John Delaney can offer good insight.”
Mayor Alvin Brown and his staff are reviewing reports submitted Aug. 8 by 18 transition policy committees. The committees consisted of 217 people and another 125 subject area experts and staff. More than 110 meetings were held over a month. The Daily Record will summarize one report daily and include the names of the committee co-chairs and members. Today’s summary covers the Personnel Transition Committee.