DELTONA — Residents this November will likely find the following proposed charter amendment, or something similar, on their general election ballot: The city manager and in-house city attorney should reside within Volusia County or within 25 miles of city boundaries.
The City Commission during a special meeting Monday night voted 5-1 in favor of putting the matter to the voters. Commissioner Anita Bradford cast the dissenting vote; Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vazquez was absent.
Bradford said she personally wants the manager to live in the city.
"We need a city manager who lives here, so that city manager is attending events," Bradford said. "If they’re dedicated and we’re paying them what we pay them, they should live in the city."
Currently at Deltona's helm, as acting city manager, is DeBary resident John Peters III, who initially joined the city in June 2019 as the public works director.
The commission brought him on as acting manager via a contract without a residency requirement at the end of 2020. His current annual salary is $169,680, and his car and phone allowances are $6,269 and $1,100, respectively.
Bradford also said residents made their position known in November 2014 in response to a municipal referendum: "Shall the Deltona City Charter be amended to remove the residency requirements for City Manager?"
Voters, 22,622 to be precise, responded with 17,245 voting against changing what was put in the charter when Deltona incorporated in 1995. Census records put the city's population in 2014 at 86,355 and at 53,347 in 1995.
The voters were also asked in 2014 if the residency requirement for an in-house city attorney should be removed. A total of 22,682 voters responded with 15,681 voting against changing it.
Voters were first asked if the in-house attorney should reside in the city in 2008 when Deltona's population was 84,141. A total of 31,946 voters responded with 22,126 voting in favor of the referendum.
Mayor Heidi Herzberg, who served as a commissioner from 2010-2018 and was then elected as mayor, cited the city's history of charter-officer turnover, the lack of temporary housing options and the current housing market in general as reasons it could be time to ask residents to take another look at the residency requirement.
"Would you give up your home that you’ve invested in to take a job where the average lifespan of that job is two years?" Herzberg said. "That's the bigger picture."
Charter city without charter officers
The matter was before the commission Monday as Commissioner Dana McCool brought it up during a meeting last month.
During the July 18 meeting, she requested and received consensus to have staff work up language for an amendment that would let voters decide on whether or not it would be acceptable for a city manager to live within 50 miles of the city.
At the beginning of Monday's meeting, commissioners, McCool included, agreed that 50 miles is too far. Eventually, they narrowed it down to within Volusia County or within 25 miles of city boundaries.
McCool pointed out during the meeting last month that Deltona, a charter city, currently has no true charter officers.
"If we're good with that as a city, let's rock and roll, but I'm pointing that out again, as has been pointed out to me," she said.
As the city is technically represented by the Orlando-based firm Fowler, Feeney & Associates, P.A., and not one particular attorney, the city's legal representatives also don't live in Deltona.
McCool also pointed out, as other commissioners and engaged residents have, that under Peters "this is the most stability we’ve had in a while."
"When we say that somebody needs to live in Deltona, we cut out a part of the talent pool that we could be hiring from," McCool said.
A few residents during public comment suggested the individual at least live within Volusia County as they would at least be more familiar with the region's people and resources.
The ordinance will come before the commission for a final vote on Aug. 15. If it passes, the proposed referendum goes to the ballot in November.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Deltona residents likely to see referendum on charter officer residency