To say the events leading to David Recor being hired as Ocean City’s next city manager were not ideal would be the understatement of the year. Dysfunction, mistakes and bizarre turns of events have made this a process to remember.
Of course, as of Thursday at 3 p.m., nothing is official, but Recor and the city have agreed in principle to make him the next city manager. That much we know.
Recor was certainly on the hot seat in Florida, but he is not going to find the political waters in Ocean City to be any smoother to navigate, at least immediately.
There will surely be a honeymoon phase at first. He will be welcomed with open arms and much pomp and circumstance, but there will inevitably be a situation at some point that will put him at odds with Mayor Rick Meehan, who does not have a council vote, and the three minority council members.
When Joe Hall called Recor last month, breaching the confidential nature of the city manager search process and inevitably causing all the strife in Ft. Pierce for Recor, he wanted to make sure that the next city manager was aware that a 4-3 vote was no different than a 6-1 or 7-0 vote. Whatever way the council voted was to be the direction of the city, according to Joe Hall. In response, Recor said he understood that well.
Clearly, Recor’s hiring marks the beginning of a new chapter in Ocean City. Mayor Rick Meehan, who has been mayor since 2006 and a councilman prior to that since 1985, knows that better than anyone. Meehan has been serving as the city manager since September when Dare was abruptly removed. Considering he has been balancing three jobs — mayor, city manager and Realtor — word that he’s about to shed at least one title should have him delighted. However, on Wednesday, Meehan did not seem that way, seemingly still annoyed and frustrated by the nosedive the process has taken over the last three weeks.
Indeed, this has been a flawed city manager process. There was the phone call to the candidate that obviously threw everything into a tailspin here in Ocean City as well as in coastal Florida. However, there was more to it and there appears to have been several problems with the city consultant’s handling of the situation.
It’s no secret negotiations were bumpy between Recor and the city early on. It all started with the city and Recor initially being about $30,000 apart in salary expectations. It appears a compromise of sorts was struck at a salary of $147,000, plus a $10,000 ICMA contribution. It’s worth noting Recor will be making less than the public works director and only a few dollars more than the town’s police chief, finance director and city engineer. That should prove interesting.
That fact, along with the unfortunate circumstance that he was hired in a 4-3 vote should be disturbing to Recor. He is in an unbelievably awkward position and will have to hit the ground running to prove his abilities to the three who did not vote for him. Whether he knows it or not, at least two of the dissenting votes were more about the process than Recor.
Even before the lame-brained phone call was made to Recor in Florida, Councilman Lloyd Martin said he still favored the other finalist. For Council members Doug Cymek and Mary Knight, although disturbed by some of Recor’s former life experiences, their votes were more about the process carrying forward after it was compromised by the call.
One of Recor’s first responsibilities upon coming to town will be explaining why he said what he said at Monday’s Ft. Pierce Commission meeting, which is available on that city’s website. He gave about a three-minute speech, reporting he was staying in Ft. Pierce and how that should put a period on the discussion.
He stopped short of saying he had dropped his bid for the city manager post here, but he made it clear he was staying in Ft. Pierce and looked at his bosses and said so.
Less than 12 hours later, it was discovered negotiations had been ramped up between him and the city’s consultant and that a contract was imminent.
It’s all baffling, of course, but clearly Recor at the time was playing both sides and just trying to do what’s best for him and his family. Although he doesn’t want to comment publicly yet, surely Commissioner Tom Perona’s scathing comments about him at this week’s meeting led to his change of heart.
Perhaps Commissioner Reggie Sessions articulated his feelings about Recor best, and it’s something local residents should keep in mind before judging him on some of the “bags” he may be bringing with him from Florida.
“He has some issues, but they’re nothing you can’t work with. I have been one of his strongest supporters during his tenure. I think David has a very bright future in terms of his ability to manage a city. He’s very smart …,” Sessions said. “… On the flip side of that, David’s young [45 years old]. When you are young, you tend to have a stronger pride … and he has some characteristics about him in terms of his nature and response and temper sometimes with individuals in the political field. They realize that he’s volatile and will react … that will sometimes cause problems for him. However, from my perspective, those negative things do not outweigh all the positives that he has to offer as a professional city manager.”
We need to give Recor the benefit of the doubt today and we perhaps by doing that can ease the temperature just a little bit on the seat he’s about to assume. He has a tough job ahead of him and he’s going to need support.