A crescendo of demands for the ouster of City Manager Jane Shang took over the Deltona City Commission’s Aug. 6 meeting, as more critics made themselves seen and heard at City Hall.
Less than a month before the primary that includes three Deltona municipal races — elections for mayor and representatives in Districts 1 and 4 — the City Commission got an earful of calls for Shang’s termination.
The show of force came in response to a social-media effort arranged by a group known as Deltona Strong, whose supporters have voiced discontent with garbage service, water and sewage charges, and perceptions of alienation between residents and their leaders.
Deltona Strong marshaled for a warm-up rally in the parking lot before entering the meeting.
“We need to run our government, or they’re going to run us!” mayoral candidate Santiago Avila Jr. told the 80 or so people assembled outside.
Cheers followed, as well as remarks by other speakers, such as Loren King, who is running for the District 1 CIty Commission seat.
King quoted Thomas Jefferson.
“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” King said, to the delight of his hearers. “Today we are the rebellion.”
“People are standing up and saying, ‘No more!’” declared Brandy White, who said Shang filed a criminal complaint against her after White recorded a confrontation over a public-records request inside City Hall earlier this year.
Shouts of “Fire Jane! Fire Jane!” erupted before Jamie Jessup, the de facto master of ceremonies at the rally, called for the group to go inside.
“We come in peace,” Jessup said as the marchers moved with their signs into City Hall. “Do we want a city that responds to us? Let’s go tell them.”
Once inside, the dissidents waited, watched and listened. The City Commission could not ignore the critics.
Commissioner Anita Bradford spoke in terms that resonated with the crowd, including calls for an audit of the municipal utilities and a state investigation of Shang’s management and possibly of complaints against Shang.
“I have no grudge against Ms. Shang. I think she is a great person,” Bradford said. “I am making a motion for Ms. Shang to be suspended, pending the outcome of the investigation.”
Silence held briefly.
“Hearing no second, the motion fails,” Mayor John Masiarczyk ruled.
Cheers, jeers and catcalls sounded in response, expressing dismay over the lack of support from Bradford’s colleagues for her motion.
“Commissioner [Heidi] Herzberg, I think that you should reconsider your bid for mayor, because if you win, it’s going to be the most miserable four years of your life,” Mark Metzer said.
“You’re not listening,” Jessup told the City Commission.
“You need to get back the trust of the people. Let’s fire Jane Shang!” Avila said, urging Deltona residents to go to the polls. “Let’s totally change the government by changing the people up there!”
Besides the three races on the Aug. 28 primary ballot, two other City Commission seats — Districts 3 and 5 — will be decided in the Nov. 6 general election. In all, five of the seven City Commission seats are up for grabs in the current election cycle.
“Commissioner Bradford, you are the true definition of a leader,” Donald Freeman, a candidate for the District 5 commission post, said.
New Hope Baptist Church Pastor William Bradley held out an olive branch, telling everyone on hand that he wishes to bridge the divide by bringing Deltonans together to talk.
“We need to begin to have a dialogue,” Bradley said. “I believe it is time to come together as a community.”
The conciliatory tone was cut short when Pat Gibson said Shang had called Volusia County sheriff’s deputies to issue a trespass warning to stop the videotaping of people at The Center of Deltona at a Mother’s Day event.
“Who in the h—- do you think you are?” Gibson asked Shang.
When Masiarczyk called upon her to restrain her comments, Gibson shot back, “I didn’t ask you to speak!”
The audience was feeling its power, as more speakers wanted to sound off.
“Jane, when I’m elected, you will be removed,” said Kurt Sniffin, a candidate for the District 4 seat.
“If I could make a citizen’s arrest, I would,” Joy Kittrell told Shang and the City Commission.
Brandy White warned commissioners that she and fellow Deltona Strong members wield the power in the city.
“The ultimate executive authority could snap you back into place,” White said.
When the gripe session ended, commissioners were subdued and reserved.
“I love Deltona,” District 4 Commissioner Robert McFall said. “You’ve been speaking, and we’ve been listening.”
“The rhetoric is what is upsetting,” Masiarczyk said. “Thank you all for 99.99 percent of what went on.”
Bradford urged all parties “to be cordial and respectful” in their discourse as the three-hour meeting ended.
Asked for her comment on the meeting, Shang said she “will get back later” with a response, as she hurried to her office.
Commissioner Mitch Honaker was absent from the meeting.