DeFuniak loses another city administrator

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TOM McLAUGHLIN @TomMnwfdn

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS – A city that can’t seem to retain its administrators lost another recently when DeFuniak Springs Finance Director Joe Brown called it quits after two years on the job.

Brown insisted Tuesday that his primary reason for stepping down was due to his accepting a new job with the city of Callaway, but in his resignation letter he took a couple of parting shots at the DeFuniak Springs City Council.

“For the past year the refusal of the council to attempt to find an experienced and qualified city manager to lead the city to grow with the completion of the 331 project has been discouraging to those of us who realize the great opportunity for growth that lies ahead,” Brown said in his letter.

U.S. Highway 331, which runs north and south through Walton County from the Alabama Line to the Gulf of Mexico, is being expanded to four lanes. Most believe the widening will set off an explosion of commercial development along the roadway.

“Efforts by the mayor and other private citizens to bring economic development opportunities to the town are continually discouraged by the council,” Brown wrote. “There is no serious effort being made by the leadership to strive to make changes happen to grow the city.”

Brown said “events of the last year,” which included community meetings held to discuss town growth and, according to Mayor Bob Campbell, a council decision to reject a research group’s recommendations for conducting a city manager search, drove him to consider new career options.

Sara Bowers resigned as DeFuniak Springs city manager in March of 2016, after harsh city council job evaluations became public. She was the fourth to hold the title of city manager or interim city manager that had left in “less than five years,” city resident Diane Pickett noted in an email.

Brown is the third finance director to leave DeFuniak Springs in basically the same time period, Pickett said.

“We are now in full crisis with no effective leadership, apart from Mayor Campbell,” Pickett said. “Citizens need to make themselves heard at the next City Council meeting.”

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 24 at DeFuniak Springs City Hall.

Ron Kelley was the only city council member contacted that responded to a request for comment. He said he’d spoken to Brown and “he confirmed that this move has been in the works for some time.” Kelley also wished Brown well and expressed confidence city staff would do well in his absence.

Asked to address what Brown had to say about the city council, Kelley declined.

“I believe my statement is sufficient,” he said.

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