DECISIONS — The Deltona City Commission at a recent meeting. Columnist Mark Barker, who eviscerated the City Commission on last week’s opinion page, writes favorably of the 6-1 vote to terminate Interim City Manager James Chisholm. BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

By Mark Barker

The fact is, recently the majority of the Deltona City Commission did the right thing, took a symbolic stand, and voted to terminate Interim City Manager James “The Chiseler” Chisholm after he abruptly resigned — taking his two redundant (and incredibly expensive) deputy managers with him — effectively decapitating the municipality’s leadership, leaving the rudderless ship adrift during the all-important budget cycle.

The lone vote to keep Chisholm dragging on the public teat was Commissioner Tom Burbank — a congenitally stupid lump — who, once again, stabbed his long-suffering constituents in the back from his high perch on the dais of power…

Kudos to those Deltona city commissioners who took action to excise this parasite from the public dole.

Now, the important work of finding a permanent city manager can begin.

During my career in municipal government, I had the opportunity to serve with some of the finest city managers and senior department heads in the business — many of whom achieved extraordinary success in public service and private industry.

These folks all had similar characteristics.

They spoke truth to power, accepted personal responsibility for their acts and omissions and those of subordinates, maintained 360-degree situational awareness, listened to their constituents, used criticism to their advantage, supported those who deliver essential services, lived their values, led by example, and served with honor, integrity, and a personal commitment to preserving the public trust.

These professionals were not perfect. They made honest mistakes — and learned from them — earning the respect and admiration of citizens, elected officials, and their colleagues.

Conversely, I have endured the worst of the worst — craven posers who proved themselves the foulest examples of those charlatans who hold themselves out as “managers” and set upon unwitting communities.

The destruction and distrust that results can take years to overcome…

Boards, councils and commissions have the right to hire whom they want, and sometimes “managers in transition” are escaping political s***shows not of their own making. However, in my experience, the best predictor of future performance remains past performance.

Before Deltona taxpayers are saddled with another perennial failure, nutjob, or itinerant mercenary looking for a settlement on the way out the door, they should demand a strong internal vetting process that includes a thorough personal and professional background investigation as an integral part of a transparent selection where citizens have meaningful input.

Recruiting and retaining senior leadership remains among the most important decisions an elective body will make, and these choices should not be taken lightly.

As the great author and political theorist Dr. Hunter S. Thompson figuratively wrote:

“Those who fail to learn from the brutal stompings visited on them in the past are doomed to be brutally stomped in the future…”

— Barker writes a blog, usually about local government, at A retired police chief, Barker says he lives as a semi-recluse in an arrogantly shabby home in coastal Central Florida, with his wife and two dogs. This is excerpted from his blog, lightly edited (he swears a lot) and reprinted with his permission.


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