Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Madeira Beach chooses fire chief as new city manager

“Let’s move the city forward and stop arguing,” says the newly appointed  city manager Derryl O’Neal, referring to the political rift within the city.

“Let’s move the city forward and stop arguing,” says the newly appointed city manager Derryl O’Neal, referring to the political rift within the city.

MADEIRA BEACH — In a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the City Commission appointed a new city manager and heard warnings that two of its members may soon face a recall election.

Former Fire Chief Derryl O'Neal, who will become the city's manager on Monday, urged residents to put aside their political disputes and come together for the good of the city.

The city has been torn by political factions who won or lost the March municipal election, and are either suing the city or organizing a recall petition drive to reverse that election.

"This is a situation of sour grapes, a microcosm of what is happening in the federal government. The commission members were duly elected whether people like it or not. Let's move the city forward and stop arguing," O'Neal said.

That doesn't seem to be happening.

O'Neal is determined to try, however. He has asked the Florida Institute of Government to direct a commission workshop in November that O'Neal hopes will set an agenda for the city.

One of his ideas is to reach cooperative agreements with neighboring cities to share administrative functions.

At the top of his list is the now vacant post of fire chief, being filled in the interim by Lt. Todd Ernscher, the city's senior fire officer.

Nearby Treasure Island is also without a permanent fire chief and is looking for a fire inspector. Both positions could be shared, O'Neal said.

The new city manager also wants commissioners to better understand the functions and potential benefits of the city's various departments, including the city's recreation center and marina.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about what some of our departments do," O'Neal said.

Other topics will include how the city will move forward in identifying new revenue sources, burying utilities on Gulf Boulevard, and repairing and rebuilding the city's stormwater system.

He did not mention development issues, however, which are central to the city's current political battles.

Each commission meeting, including the one Tuesday, continues to be peppered with bitter comments and accusations from residents on both sides of the development debate.

A table with literature was set up Tuesday night in the public right of way outside the city's fire house announcing an upcoming petition drive to unseat two commissioners and later the mayor.

Lawyer Jay Hebert informed the commission at the end of its meeting that a group of residents are planning the recall petition drive.

These residents largely support controversial hotel developments and were angered when the three commissioners elected last March moved several months ago to fire former City Manager Shane Crawford and his wife, City Clerk Cheryl Crawford.

Hebert, who previously represented the Crawfords, told Vice Mayor John Douthirt and Commissioner Nancy Oakley they will be the initial targets of the recall effort.

According to Hebert, there may be a later effort to unseat Mayor Maggi Black.

Meanwhile, several lawsuits involving the hotel developments that stoked the city's political divides are still wending their way through the courts.

Last week, the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Tampa ruled in favor of the city on a challenge to a 2016 referendum election involving the selling of city property.

That referendum was soundly defeated and its opponents became the core of opposition to subsequent major hotel developments along 150th Avenue and Madeira Way — and efforts to unseat a majority of the then-city commission.

Another lawsuit challenging the Madeira Beach Town Center project along Madeira Way is scheduled to be considered during a mediation session this month.

Last month a similar mediation session involving the Holiday Isles Marina hotel project on 150th Avenue appeared to resolve that lawsuit.

Madeira Beach chooses fire chief as new city manager 10/13/17 [Last modified: Thursday, October 12, 2017 12:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Gradebook podcast: On HB 7069, with Palm Beach schools superintendent Robert Avossa

    Blogs

    After months of discussion, several Florida school districts filed suit against the Legislature over the contentious HB 7069, calling parts of it unconstitutional. At the same time, some of them also sought grant funding established in the same measure. The Palm Beach County school district did both. Superintendent …

    Palm Beach superintendent Robert Avossa
  2. Hooper: Jean Chatzy chats about the intersection of wealth, health

    Personal Finance

    Public safety officials can readily identify a city's most dangerous intersections.

    Personal finance adviser Jean Chatzky is one of several high profile speakers on the slate for the Women's Conference of Florida in Tampa next week. [Handout photo]
  3. Video: Buckhorn, Kriseman team up in Tampa Bay pitch to Amazon

    Economic Development

    Across the United States, cities and metro areas are in a frenzied bidding war to convince Amazon their regions are the best fit for its new headquarters, HQ2.

    The Tampa Bay area is no exception. …

    The first  video, rolled out on Oct. 19, 2017, features Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, left, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman welcoming Amazon and talking about why Tampa Bay would be a perfect fit for the second Amazon headquarters.
  4. Dirk Koetter sounds Bucs alarm: 'They're the players that we have'

    Blogs

    The other day, Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith was asked about the lack of production and pressure from the defensive line, especially off the edge.

    Then it happened.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (28) takes the field for the start of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New England Patriots on October 5, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
  5. Tampa police schedule update at 11 a.m. on three Seminole Heights deaths

    Crime

    TAMPA — Tampa police have scheduled a news conference at 11 a.m. for an update on their investigation of three suspicious deaths in southeast Seminole Heights during the past two weeks.

    Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan addresses reporters about the latest suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights Thursday night. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL | Times]