Last week, a substantial number of interested Daytona Beach citizens braved gusty, rainy weather to personally attend one of the most important meetings in recent local history: the City Manager Candidate Forum for citizens to weigh in on the selection of the next Daytona Beach city manager.
(Hopefully, thousands online also watched the proceedings. Kudos to the city of Daytona Beach leadership and staff for setting the forum up safely during the pandemic.)
Why was it important?
Daytona operates under a “strong manager” form of government, which means that an unelected city official appointed by the city commission operates all city functions on a day-to-day basis. (Compare that with cities with an “strong mayor” form of government in which the elected mayor is responsible for all operations, including budget, hiring and firing.)
The forum was important because the last city manager, Jim Chisolm, lasted 16 years as city manager – a feat almost unheard of in an industry in which city managers average three to five years.
So it’s possible that each time Daytona Beach selects a city manager, that person could be responsible for day-to-day operations for years stretching into the future, as long as a majority of the commission is satisfied with his or her performance.
At the forum
By the time the forum began, two of the five potential candidates had dropped out. The remaining three candidates all appeared in person: Terrance R. Moore, Terry K. Suggs, and Deric Feacher.
The city rotated the candidates among Budget & Management, Business, Neighborhood Improvement and Public Safety groups. I sat in with the Business group, composed mostly of entrepreneurs and small business owners.
After hearing all three presentations, two of the remaining three candidates stood out: Moore and Feacher.
As I further analyzed and reviewed video both of their excellent presentations, it became clear to me that Terrence Moore brought the most impressive range of experience at the city manager level of any candidate on the final list.
He has a knowledge of the existing educational, tourist, and manufacturing assets in Daytona Beach that can collaboratively move the city forward, as well as experience and understanding with regard to affordable housing, municipal finance, and fiscally sound stewardship.
He has succeeded in cities with vast cultural, urban, rural, language and political differences ranging across the states of Florida, New Mexico, West Virginia and Georgia, with additional experience in Chicago, Ill., city government.
In his stint as city manager of Las Cruces, New Mexico, he supervised some 1,400 employees with budget responsibility totaling $314 million a year. (Daytona Beach has approximately a $400 million annual municipal budget.)
We believe that Moore’s experiences have taught him something about adaptation and cooperation across geographic, cultural, racial, ethnic, political and economic lines.
Notably, he told the group about how he, a Black man, had been racially berated by city officials for whom he worked, including being harassed by local law enforcement in a city that he actually managed.
But rather than file a lawsuit, make a public stink, leave the profession or curse the darkness, he lit a candle by lecturing about his experiences to city management officials at a national conference in what he called “a teachable moment,” then brushed the incident off his shoulder and moved forward to lead his city unabated.
That’s the kind of perseverance and “thickness of skin” that’s necessary here in the midst of Daytona Beach’s pitched battles about environmentalism vs. economic development, housing, beach access, mainland vs. beachside infrastructure improvement, elimination of slum and blight, code enforcement, cooperation among municipalities, single-event tourism, and the vision – or lack there-of – for the future of the area, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A great career
Feacher, a Bethune-Cookman University graduate, has had top city management experience in the cities of Winter Haven and Haines City, Fla. Feacher’s presentation was energetic and full of information with a deep level of local knowledge of both people and conditions in Daytona Beach. There’s no doubt that he is in the midst of a great career. (Full disclosure: Feacher and I are both members of the illustrious Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.)
Is Feacher qualified? Yes he is.
But we believe Moore’s hard-won, wide-ranging experience gives him the clear edge as Daytona Beach answers the critical post-pandemic question of “Where did we go from here?” We believe he is best served to build on what all candidates agree is the excellent fiscal condition the city enjoys as a consequence of Chisholm’s unexpectedly long tenure.
Outside energy necessary
The tremendous, regrettable but unnecessary loss of Bethune-Cookman University President E. LaBrent Chrite, who had a similarly successful wide-ranging and diverse education leadership career as Moore does in city leadership and management, makes what Moore brings to Daytona Beach from his decades of outside experiences more important than ever.
The city sorely needs new ideas brought in by experienced, energetic “outsiders” with a history of achievement, with fresh eyes who see opportunities is to be enlarged rather than problems and challenges to be managed. In that regard, we believe that Moore is of a similar mindset to Chrite.
If the Daytona Beach City Commission is committed to making this critical decision by closing the process among the remaining three applicants, we believe that TERRANCE R. MOORE is the best fit for the city of Daytona Beach for such a time as this.
Charles W. Cherry II is the former publisher of the Daytona Times. He is currently president and CEO of 623 Management, Inc., https://623management.com/, an advertising agency focused on outreach and marketing to Black Floridians via print, broadcast, outdoor, social media, smartphones, and traditional community influencers.