Gainesville City Hall shakeup cuts 3 top jobs, reorganizes departments

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Three assistant city managers for the city of Gainesville were notified Monday that their jobs have been eliminated as part of a sweeping reorganization of top-level staff and city departments.

Interim City Manager Cynthia Curry, who was appointed by the commission in October after City Manager Lee Feldman resigned, made the decision to eliminate the positions.

The three assistant city managers — Fred Murry, Deborah Bowie and Andrea Agha — were notified on Monday by Curry.

Cynthia Curry, interim city manager
Cynthia Curry, interim city manager

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"This adjustment had to be made. I don't take this lightly at all. It impacts lives. But when you make changes, and you do it for the right reasons, things tend to work out," Curry told the Gainesville Sun.

She said she doesn't anticipate more reorganization on this scale, but will continue to evaluate operations so services are delivered effectively to people in Gainesville.

The move follows a tumultuous year in which a city commissioner and most of the city's charter officers — the highest ranking city officials — resigned. And it comes at the start of a year that will see a new mayor and majority on the city commission elected as incumbents are term limited.

Along with eliminating the roles for assistant city manager, Curry said in a memo Monday to Mayor Lauren Poe and the City Commission that she was creating the position of chief operating officer and reorganizing other city departments.

Chief of Police Tony Jones has been tapped to step in temporarily as chief operating officer while a search is conducted to fill the post permanently.

Bowie joined the city as executive chief of staff in 2018 and had served as interim city manager before Feldman, the former city manager, was chosen for the job in late 2019.

Murry, who started working for the city in 2007, has more than 30 years of public service, and has served in a variety of administrative and and /or executive positions in city and county government. He has also applied to become city manager.

Agha joined the city staff in August 2021. Most recently, she served as the CEO for the Village of Key Biscayne, and as the deputy town manager for the Town of Miami Lakes.

The top ranks of city officials have been in turmoil for months. Feldman resigned in September, along with two other charter officers, City Attorney Nicolle Shalley and City Clerk Omichele Gainey. City Commissioner Gail Johnson resigned a month earlier. And Teneeshia Marshall, the city's equity and inclusion director, and a fourth charter officer, resigned in April 30.

Permanent replacements have not been made for any of those jobs, and it's unclear whether city commissioners will move to do that before municipal elections in August.

"Ms. Curry was hired with the understanding that we wanted an assessment of the organization and to do what she thinks best," said Mayor Poe in a conversation with the Gainesville Sun.

"She determined that there needed to be a more streamlined organization that reported directly to the city manager, and not have things so spread out."

Poe said he only learned details on the reorganization on Monday, although Curry told him last week she was considering changes. "She has my trust," he said.

In the broader reorganization, Curry said she will hire an executive chief of staff and shift Phil Mann, director of public works, into a special assignment as her advisor on infrastructure needs and capital projects.

The city's Department of Budget and Finance is being renamed to the Department of Financial Services, and a certified public accountant is planned to be hired as a manager, and the position of controller has been added. A state audit recently cited the city for a lack of in-house financial expertise.

The Office of Capital Asset Planning and Economic Resilience is being shifted back into the Department of Sustainable Development, where it will be called the Economic Opportunity and Special Projects Planning Division. It will focus on economic development, support for local small businesses and job creation.

Curry also plans on hiring a chief housing strategist, who will report directly to her and focus on housing development in the city.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Gainesville City Hall shakeup costs 3 managers' jobs, offices shifted

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