HISID hires new district manager
HOLIDAY ISLAND -- In a short meeting Monday morning, the Holiday Island Board of Commissioners hired a new district manager, Dennis Kelly of North Palm Beach, Fla.
He will start July 15, pending a background check and drug test.
Kelly is one of six candidates interviewed for the job, said board Chairman Ken Ames, and one of three offered the position. The other two candidates turned the position down because of salary, he said. Kelly will start at $70,000 a year.
Kelly, 67, is currently working as a consultant for Teel Consulting in Mesquite, Texas.
Prior to that, he was the village manager for North Bay Village, Fla., a village of 7,600 residents in the Miami area, from December 2011 to April 2013. According to his resumé, he "recovered the community from serious financial accountability and auditing problems, reorganized staff, made immediate changes in three department head positions in order to increase efficiency and competency of the organization and started a major capital project program to build a new village hall."
According to local media, Kelly's employment was terminated by village commissioners at a special meeting held April 1, citing his lack of communication, follow-through and "heart for the job." A prior attempt by two commissioners to fire him failed in late 2012 when the mayor and vice-mayor broke a 2-2 deadlocked vote.
Kelly said by phone Monday he was not fired in April, but that it was a voluntary separation.
"The mayor and I looked at each other and said this isn't working," he said. "She and I were not getting along, and I said let's negotiate a severance agreement. I initiated that. I got a nice severance."
Prior to his job in Florida, Kelly was the city administrator for Fort Smith, Ark., with a population of 85,000, from October 2008 to November 2010.
His resumé includes accomplishments such as negotiating a contract with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to bring a 100,000-square-foot wind turbine plant and successfully lobbying Congress for $30 million in stimulus funds to complete Interstate 49 to feed Fort Chaffee's industrial park.
Kelly was fired from this job in a 4-3 directors' vote following an executive session held on election day, Nov. 2, 2010, a decision the mayor disagreed with. According to Fort Smith media, the board had gone into executive session several times during the year to review Kelly's performance but had not taken official action. It had given him a list of four areas to improve in, which Kelly told media he had completed three of and was working on the fourth.
Two board members said they were "frustrated with Kelly's failure to come up with financial alternatives to funding the Convention Center that did not involve a 1 percent prepared food tax," the Fort Smith Times-Record reported. He had also suggested steep employee pay cuts, an unpopular option.
Kelly said there was more to the story of his termination in Forth Smith than reported in the media.
"They had four votes out of seven," he said. "Three of those (voted to terminate) the night before they left office. I caught hands in the cookie jar, and that was not a good situation. One was trying to give away the insurance pool, and it would have cost the city $5 million." He said there were problems circumventing the bidding process in another case.
"That's the nature of the business. You know you have to deal with politics and pocket padding, and I wasn't going to have any of it."
Both North Bay Village and Fort Smith had had "revolving door" problems with city administrators.
Ames said the Holiday Island board was aware of these terminations and that Kelly spoke frankly about them in his interview. Ames also said politics was the main reason every candidate they interviewed wanted to leave their current job.
"Anytime there was an issue it was a turnaround between commissioners or councillors. It all had to do with a change in style of management and government," Ames said. "It's the nature of the beast. I'm not too concerned about it."
Kelly has other experience as a city administrator in several communities in Florida, going back to 1975.
He said he is happy to be back in the area. His wife, Robin's, family lives in the Fort Smith, Fayetteville and Bentonville areas, and she works in Fort Smith at the library.
Kelly said he sees the biggest learning curve for him with Holiday Island will getting used to the differences between a suburban improvement district and a municipality.
He said he is not intimidated by the class action lawsuit against Holiday Island.
"I will find out the facts and circumstances and go from there," he said.