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Flagler Beach City Commission Puts Off Interim City Manager Pick; Narrows to 3 Finalists

ⓒ Eryn Harris

FLAGLER BEACH – The City Commission of Flagler Beach on Monday opted not to make a final selection for their interim City Manager, choosing to wait another meeting to give commissioners time to vet the candidates in person and review their entire resumes. Whoever the Commission picks will move into the seat after the firing last week of former City Manager William Whitson.

Six candidates were considered by the Commission, two of whom were exceedingly familiar: retired County Administrator Jerry Cameron and former City Commissioner Kim Carney. Neither of these two made it to the Commission’s consensus of three finalists.

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Candidates Jerry Cameron, Katrina Powell, and John Drago. ⓒ Eryn Harris

The remaining options for interim City Manager now appear to be Katrina Powell, Mike Abels, and John Drago. All three have City Manager experience relatively close to Flagler: Powell held the post in Longwood, Abels in Palm Bay and DeLand, and Drago also in Longwood. Several amongst the field have also held adjacent positions such as Assistant City Manager, County Administrator, or Assistant County Administrator.

Jerry Cameron was the first candidate summoned to the podium and given the chance to pitch his credentials. A sizeable portion of Cameron’s time was spent refuting a FlaglerLive article which reported he’d actively pursued the position; Cameron insisted he’d engaged in proverbial dances with prospective employers since retiring from the county but had not been the initiator of any such conversations.

He used this point to slyly mention how many times he’d been offered jobs in the last year and a half, and even said the St. Johns County Republican Party had urged him to run for School Board. Cameron was most fervently supported by Commission Chair Ken Bryan, who opted not to run for another term in next month’s election. As with several of the candidates, some of the Commission questioning about Cameron’s application stemmed from its haphazard assembly given the sudden timing of the job opening.

Next was John Drago, who spoke to a long career holding administrative roles in several cities in Florida. His resume was nothing if not diverse, also boasting a four-year ongoing stint with the Florida League of Cities and a local homeowners association board for good measure. Commissioner Deborah Phillips pressed Drago on his budgeting philosophy, to which Drago consistently held that his job would merely be to execute the priorities of the Commission.

John McCue was one of a few candidates who participated by phone call, facilitated by city staff. He spoke to senior management experience and a team-building philosophy. After issuing some clarifications on the timeline of his recent employment, McCue was thanked and ultimately not considered as a finalist for the job.

Mike Abels spoke to a 20+ year City Manager career, detailing incidents that spoke to his readiness for the job. His points resonated; Flagler Beach reached several turning points and crises during the last two years, some of its own design. Abels appeared to effectively persuade the Commission he was prepared to take on the moment.

Katrina Powell sported perhaps the most diverse resume, having experience in the military and both the private and public sectors. She was praised both by the Commissioners and by public commenters for her pitch, and ultimately added to the field of finalists.

Kim Carney had the most robust familiarity with Flagler Beach and its city government, having served as a City Commissioner until 2020. Carney has made two other attempts to break back into the public sector since then: she ran unsuccessfully for County Commission in 2020 (a narrow loss to incumbent Dave Sullivan), and a bid for Flagler Beach Mayor in 2021 (falling to Suzie Johnston). She was a last-minute applicant, having sent in her paperwork the day of the meeting, and was also left out of the next step of the process.

The Commission was in tight unison on Drago, Abels, and Powell as the three finalists with one exception: Bryan opted to pick Cameron as a finalist over Drago. Still, those three were picked to speak in-depth with the Commission, public, and city staff ahead of a subsequent meeting where an interim will be picked. It will the final meeting of Ken Bryan before leaving office, and possibly the last of Debbie Phillips pending the outcome of the March election.

“I think all three of them bring a skill set that’s needed to manage the projects that we have in place right now and to hold things together,” said Commissioner James Sherman after the meeting adjourned. Forming the three-candidate shortlist was his idea to streamline the selection process.

Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

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