For the second time in less than a year, Volusia County’s largest city is in turmoil with the departure of its full-time administrator.
Interim City Manager Jim Chisholm has abruptly resigned, prompting questions about who is in charge. Who now is leading the city of nearly 100,000?
“For now, I am,” Mayor Santiago Avila Jr. told The Beacon, noting Chisholm tendered his resignation Aug. 15.
Avila has called a special meeting of the Deltona City Commission for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17.
“I have enjoyed working with the staff and Commission and wish the city success as you move forward as a community. It will take a commitment to achieve success by working together and putting aside your politics,” Chisholm’s letter of resignation reads.
He asked Avila and the City Commission to “accept this letter of resignation to be effective 30 days from today (Sept.14, 2023).”
“I will remain on administrative leave from this day forward,” Chisholm added. “I will be available for consultation while on administrative leave by call to assist with the transition.”
The mayor had already called the special session to discuss Chisholm’s work performance as manager, including Avila’s concerns about not receiving information he had requested. Upon learning of the meeting and the reason for its being called, Avila said, Chisholm decided to leave.
Earlier this summer, Chisholm had hired Rick Karl — formerly a high-ranking Volusia County staffer who oversaw the Daytona Beach International Airport and economic development — as his deputy city manager. Karl, however, resigned last week.
Moreover, the city’s director of planning and development services, Joe Ruiz, has also resigned. His departure is also an item on the agenda of the upcoming special meeting of the City Commission.
In a controversial move that came to light a few days ago, Chisholm had hired a second deputy city manager, Suzette Cameron. Cameron, the mayor said, is still at work for the city.
Chisholm was hired as interim city manager of Deltona in October, following the sudden ouster of Acting City Manager John Peters in September — just days before Hurricane Ian wrought havoc on Deltona. Peters had complained about interference in his duties from members of the commission, and he submitted his resignation which was to become effective in November. Instead of allowing Peters to serve a few more weeks until his desired departure date, the commission voted to dismiss him forthwith. The commission tapped City Attorney Marsha Segal-George as acting city manager, as well.
Chisholm retired as city manager of Daytona Beach before the Deltona City Commission chose him to take over the city’s administration and to aid in the search for a new permanent city manager. Deltona has been without a permanent manager since Jane Shang stepped down in late January 2020. Shang quit after the City Commission gave her a vote of no confidence following intense criticism by some commissioners and residents for violating state election laws and her leadership style.