New Atmosphere Brightens IRB Outlook as Commission Sets New Course for City
By Leo Coughlin
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – It was Tuesday evening but it was like a new day was dawning.
One observer put it this way – “The pendulum has swung.”
Judge George Jirotka took care of the swearing in of Commissioners Terry Hamilton-Wollin (re-elected two weeks ago) and Phil Hanna (a new face who won a stunning victory).
Then the City Commission, which includes Mayor R.B. Johnson, Cookie Kennedy and Daniel Torres, got down to business with a new city manager and treasurer in place.
Among the business taking place in the new atmosphere was the designation of Dean Scharmen, director of public works, as acting city manager in the absence or disability of the city manager.
Kennedy was named vice mayor, succeeding Hamilton-Wollin, who was, in turn, named voting delegate to the Barrier Island Government Council (BIG-C).
Kennedy was tabbed as a member of the Suncoast League of Cities board of directors.
City Hall was packed with citizens but there was a notable absence of a group of caustic critics that came to be known as the “yowlers.”
Much of that group’s impetus was fueled by a web site that has been shut down in the wake of the resounding defeat of Don House, a candidate that the down shouters had hoped would unseat Hamilton-Wollin.
Chuck Coward, the new city manager, drew praise from a couple of commissioners for his command and knowledge in his new job and the new treasurer, Sandy Sanders, gave a comprehensive report indicating that the city is approaching solid ground again after years of consternation and turmoil in financial matters.
For six years IRB has struggled without a full-time and effective city manager. The city suffered, from all evidence, from the confusions of a treasurer who seemed to create more problems than solutions.
The voters on March 10 made a change in the city Charter which puts the treasurer under the jurisdiction of the city manager.
Before that, the treasurer reported to the City Commission and this led to interference and micro-managing within the administrative operation of the city.
There was a commission member who then became mayor who, from all signs, indicated that he wanted to run the city and felt he was competent to do so better than anyone else. This led to the problems that the city is now trying to shrug off.
As one knowledgeable observer said, “Indian Rocks Beach has been wandering in the wilderness for so long, it is wonderful now that we seem to have a new beginning.”
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