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.

More than three months after a majority of Deltona’s voters affirmed two major changes in the city’s charter, those mandated changes have yet to be inserted into the founding document.

Now, as Deltona is in the market for both a new top administrator and a legal adviser, the amendments are pending for inclusion in the charter. Although the changes have been endorsed by the city’s electorate, City Attorney Marsha Segal-George says there is yet another process before the official language is added to the charter.

“It will be an ordinance. It will restate what was voted on,” she told The Beacon. “There will be two public hearings, and it will be passed and placed in municode.”

Municode is an online listing of city ordinances and resolutions adopted by local governments.

The ordinances must also be filed with the Florida Department of State in Tallahassee.

When Deltona’s voters went to the polls or cast vote-by-mail ballots in the Nov. 8, 2022, general election, two questions dealing with the charter, also known as referendums, appeared on the ballots.

The first ballot question dealt with updating the charter by repealing and removing provisions that became obsolete or no longer necessary over time or that had been changed by state or federal law. For example, one such provision provided for Deltona’s first actual municipal election in 1995 for choosing a mayor and City Commission, following the passage of the referendum on incorporation a few weeks earlier. Another provision dealt with the initial boundaries, or city limits, of Deltona at the time of incorporation. Since that time, the city has grown in territory beyond the original state-chartered Deltona Fire District.

The second ballot question — and the one that commanded the greater share of attention — was the one that proposed to loosen the residency requirements for the city manager and city attorney. Both leaders are known as charter officers, who are hired — or fired — by the City Commission and report directly to the governing body.

Prior to the charter change made by the voters, both the city manager and the city attorney were required to live within Deltona’s city limits. Although the charter mandate was clear, the commission has not enforced or upheld the provision in recent years, especially with regard to the city attorney.

The newly amended charter allows both the manager and the city’s chief legal officer to live as far as 25 miles away from Deltona’s city limits. The less stringent residency requirement, according to its supporters, may help Deltona attract a larger and more talented pool of candidates for both positions.

Deltona has not had a permanent city manager since the exit of Jane Shang in January 2020. Shang resigned after the City Commission approved a motion of no confidence in her leadership, amid intensive criticism of her management style by a few commissioners and citizens and reports that Deltona almost lost Amazon’s decision to build its fulfillment center on the city’s north side.

When Shang left, Deputy City Manager Dr. Marc-Antonie Cooper became acting manager. He remained in that post until November 2020, when he, too, lost the support of a majority of the commission. Cooper, his critics said, had failed to keep commissioners fully informed, and he had searched for other jobs. The commission demoted Cooper to deputy city manager, and, in a surprise move, tapped Public Works Director John Peters as acting city manager.

Peters, who had not sought the position of city manager, served until September 2022. He had submitted his resignation to become effective in November 2022, but the commission abruptly bade him farewell just days before Hurricane Ian slammed Florida and left much of Deltona flooded.

To fill the leadership void, the City Commission elevated Segal-George to serve as both city attorney and city manager on a temporary basis. She held the pair of posts until the commission hired former Daytona Beach City Manager James Chisholm as interim manager. Chisholm has disavowed any interest in becoming Deltona’s next permanent city manager, but he has offered to aid the city in its search for a new permanent manager. Deltona officials have begun anew the search for a city manager for the long term, with the hope of finding such a person this spring.

The charter amendments adopted by Deltona’s voters in the Nov. 8 general election emerged from a charter review authorized by the City Commission. The commission appointed a five-member charter-review committee. The City Commission refined the committee’s recommendations and approved the two ballot questions, which were affirmed by a majority popular vote.

The charter amendments that appeared on the Nov. 8 ballot in Deltona were:

1. Shall the City of Deltona Charter be amended to repeal provisions which either have been superseded by state law or have become obsolete by other conditions?
þ Yes — For approval
þ No — Against approval
2. Shall the City of Deltona Charter be amended to allow Charter Officers to maintain residency within Volusia County or within 25 miles of the City boundary?
þ Yes — For approval
þ No — Against approval


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