BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON DEBATING — Members of the Deltona City Commission are pictured here Feb. 6. From left are City Commissioners Tom Burbank, Dana McCool, Anita Bradford, Mayor Santiago Avila Jr. and City Commissioner Maritza Avila-Vazquez.

The biggest city in Volusia County has just experienced another twist and turn in its saga for leadership.

One week after tentatively agreeing upon a plan to find and hire a new permanent city manager, the Deltona City Commission Feb. 6 changed course and abruptly decided to retain Interim City Manager Jim Chisholm for at least 12 more months. The decision to ask Chisholm, formerly the city manager of Daytona Beach, to stay past his current six-month tenure, came with no advance word or placement on the meeting agenda. Rather, freshman City Commissioner Jody Lee Storozuk made the surprise suggestion shortly before the governing body adjourned.

“He’s willing to stay,” Storozuk told his colleagues. 

Was it true?

“I would consider the offer,” Chisholm told the commission.

Storozuk said Deltona needs Chisholm to help finish vital infrastructure projects, such as drainage improvements following hurricanes Ian and Nicole last fall.

“We keep putting things on the back burner,” Storozuk said.

Storozuk added that the city would be better off with an experienced administrator at the helm now, “instead of just jumping in with a stranger.”

Storozuk’s suggestion drew support from Commissioner Maritza Avila-Vazquez.

“We need to get projects completed, … and if we keep changing city managers, nothing is going to get done,” she said.

Chisholm has served as Deltona’s city manager since mid-October, when he came out of retirement to fill the void created by the commission’s abrupt vote to terminate then-Acting City Manager John Peters. Peters had submitted his resignation, to become effective Nov. 17, but the commission Sept. 19 voted 4-3 to dismiss him immediately. Peters, formerly Deltona’s public-works director, had been tapped to be acting city manager in November 2020 after the commission lost confidence in Dr. Marc-Antonie Cooper and demoted him to deputy city manager. 

When he was hired last fall as Deltona’s temporary city manager, Chisholm said he had no interest in the permanent position, but he agreed to help Deltona recruit and screen prospective manager candidates. The City Commission earlier this month tentatively approved a timetable that calls for advertising for candidates for manager, narrowing the list of applicants, interviewing finalists, and making a hiring decision in the coming spring.

Not everyone was pleased with the sudden switch to keep Chisholm in place.

“He’s doing a fine job,” Commissioner Dana McCool prefaced her remarks. “That does not negate the due process we promised them [Deltona’s residents].”

McCool said changing the recruitment of a new city manager would be “shortsighted to take the public out of this.” She objected to making such a decision without first alerting and hearing from people who may be interested.

“His [Chisholm’s] leadership is not in question,” McCool said.

“I think the constituency was robbed of due process,” McCool later told The Beacon. “I don’t like shortchanging the constituency.”

Not least, Mayor Santiago Avila Jr. objected to making a sudden decision in favor of keeping Chisholm, while Deltona’s search for a new city manager is underway.

“I would love for him [Chisholm] to apply for that position,” Avila said. 

Avila favored postponing any discussion about Chisholm’s future with the city to “a different meeting.” 

“This is a decision that affects your taxes and your bottom line,” he said.

The City Commission voted 5-2 in favor of Storozuk’s motion to retain Chisholm. Avila and McCool dissented.

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