BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON
CONSIDERING NOW AND THE FUTURE — The Deltona City Commission ponders its next steps in its search for a permanent city manager. The commission reached a consensus in favor of hiring a new city manager for the long term in January 2024. The decision to seek a new city manager on a permanent basis caps almost a year of instability in the municipal government, beginning with the resignation of Acting City Manager John Peters in September and his abrupt ouster by the preceding commission ahead of the effective date of his resignation. The commission at that time appointed former Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm to take over the city’s top administrative post, but some Deltonans criticized the commission for giving him a contract with generous benefits, including a city vehicle and fuel for his personal use. Chisholm suddenly quit as city manager Aug. 15.

For the first time in almost three years, and following a series of short-term administrators, Deltona is launching a search for a permanent city manager.

The on-again/off-again hunt for a chief executive officer for the sprawling city of nearly 100,000 people is on again. Days after Interim City Manager Jim Chisholm suddenly exited the post to which he was appointed last fall, Deltona’s elected officials say they are serious about finding and hiring a qualified administrator — and filling a void in hands-on leadership.

“Don’t prolong it, but don’t be too hasty about it,” Mayor Santiago Avila Jr. told his colleagues on the City Commission Aug. 21.

Recalling the frequent changes in management since Deltona officially became a city 28 years ago, Avila added, “We’ve had 18 or 19 city managers, and we need to do something.”

Key points in Deltona’s hunt for a new permanent city manager are:

— The City Commission has set a five-month timeline for hiring someone to take control of the municipal workforce and begin solving problems. That means the commission aspires to hire its new manager in mid-January 2024.

“This is the most important business decision that you have. There’s a lot of people out there, … but you’re only looking for one,” DeBary City Manager Carmen Rosamonda told the commission.

Rosamonda is serving as an informal adviser for Deltona’s elected and appointed officials to guide the latter through the difficulties of finishing the new budget and assisting in the selection of a new manager.

FILLING A VACANCY — At left, Deltona Public Works Director Glenn Whitcomb serves as interim city manager. The City Commission tapped Whitcomb for the post on a temporary basis following the sudden departure of Interim City Manager Jim Chisholm earlier this month. At right is City Attorney Marsha Segal-George.

— The timeline may seem like a long time, but members of the Deltona City Commission say they want to make the best choice possible.

“We need to get going,” Commissioner Dana McCool said.

“We need to get somebody in here that’s got some strong leadership,” Commissioner Jody Lee Storozuk said. “What we’ve been doing has not worked out.”

Storozuk added Deltona’s prior manager searches have yielded generally poor results.

“These searches have been done through and through, and it hasn’t worked out,” he said.

With advertising for a new city manager now underway, the City Commission has set Nov. 30 as the deadline for applying for the permanent post.

The commission, according to the schedule, will review the applications and narrow the field of would-be managers to a few semifinalists on Dec. 11. The timeline then sets a holiday break in the search, lasting until January, when the semifinal candidates will be invited to come to Deltona for interviews. Following the rounds of questioning, the schedule notes, the City Commission will choose its top-ranked candidate. If the person chosen to lead Deltona accepts the position, city officials will negotiate a contract with him or her.

— To get out the word of its desire to find a new top administrator, Deltona will advertise in professional and public-administrative circles.

“Let’s get this done right,” Vice Mayor Anita Bradford said. “Experience is a necessity.”

Word of Deltona’s intention to seek a new city manager has already gone out into public-administrative circles.

— Experience is a key qualification, but commissioners are uncertain about the kind of experience Deltona needs.

Given the city’s prior experience with managers immersed in government, Storozuk suggested Deltona consider choosing a successful manager in the private sector.

“They’re going to be more fiscally responsible,” he said. “Somebody in the private sector may do us better.”

— To assist in screening applicants and recommending candidates for the post, the City Commission will rely on two advisory committees. One panel will consist of current Deltona municipal department heads.

“Staff needs somebody that is qualified,” Bradford said. “They’re scared of who their new boss is going to be.”

Interim City Manager Glenn Whitcomb will appoint members of this committee. Whitcomb himself was Deltona’s director of public works before he was tapped to fill the top administrative post after former Interim City Manager Jim Chisholm abruptly resigned Aug. 15. Whitcomb said he wants to return to his former position as soon as possible.

The City Commission will also appoint a committee of 14 Deltona residents to review and screen applications and make recommendations on candidates to be interviewed.

“I think within two weeks we would put together a residents’ committee,” McCool said. 

The City Clerk’s Office says Deltonans wishing to serve on that advisory panel may send emails to members of the City Commission expressing their interest.

— The commission may also decide to contract with an executive-search firm to seek out a new city manager.

Some commissioners and residents have expressed concerns about the use of personnel consultants in past searches, noting the candidates recommended by those consultants have sometimes proved to be disappointments. Yet, a search consultant may be valuable in helping find the perfect choice, Whitcomb advised.

“You might want to consider using a firm for vetting purposes,” he told the City Commission. “Just food for thought. It’s your decision.”

Figures given by six management consultants to city officials range from a low of $14,531 to approximately $30,000. The City Commission allocated $75,000 in its 2022-23 budget for the costs of searching for a city manager.

— Aware of Deltona’s leadership void and its problems at hand, the city is getting offers of assistance.

“We’re here to help,” DeBary City Manager Carmen Rosamonda told the Deltona City Commission. “I’ve already made communication with all the other city managers. I’ve also made communication with [Volusia County Manager] George Recktenwald to be able to provide a small team to help you through this transition period. We would mainly focus on the next 30 days and make sure you meet some of the deadlines regarding your budget, and getting that process shored up, so that it takes the stress off and that you can trust you can get the results in a professional and organized manner.”

Rosamonda likened the situation to neighbors helping a neighbor in need.

“We’re not getting paid for this. This is totally volunteer,” he said. “The most important business decision you have is to hire a new city manager and make the right choice for you.”

Avila expressed appreciation for the outside advice and assistance.

“As mayor of Deltona, I am more than grateful that sister cities are willing to help,” he told Rosamonda.

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