It’s ironic that new City Manager Dr. Lee Niblock started his tenure here on Marco during the joyous holiday season. Many are relieved that council had finally hired a new manager after ten months of wrangling over the search.
At their first meeting of 2018, on January 8, Niblock would report that he was making the rounds. Some joked he was “making a list, seeing who’s been naughty and who’s been nice,” referring to the popular Christmas rhyme. However, at that meeting he assured council he was settling into the position and was anxious to move the community forward.
Niblock reported he has initially met with each employee group within the city, and will continue those contacts on a more personal basis, meeting with employees one on one to establish a better line of communication.
The city presently has over 225 fulltime and part time positions. By city charter, none of those employees may be directed, hired or disciplined by council members. The only employees of the city that report to the council are the city manager and city attorney. It is the city manager who directs city employees, and that relationship between councilors and employees has been tenuous at times based upon a recently released employee survey.
Niblock sees improving communications, both internally and with the public, as a major focus in the coming months. As part of that initiative he will be reshuffling some staff duties to free up necessary funds to employ a Public Communications Manager, and create an ombudsman position to assist the general public in traversing the sometimescomplicated processes within city hall. In Niblock’s view, that should help to provide more accountability within city government.
He is a proponent of creating a stronger social media presence, in an effort to keep the citizens within the community better informed.
Niblock also reported that he believes that the city should be investing more in Tallahassee lobbying efforts. He complimented the city’s present lobbyist and urged council to better utilize those efforts to return more financial aid from the state, in addition to supporting other legislation that could benefit the city moving forward.
He advised council of the need for funding a permanent position to deal with storm water engineering. This while the community moves forward to aggressively deal with maintaining and improving the condition of our bays, waterways and estuaries. “These are your largest assets,” said Niblock.
Niblock suggested that the comprehensive employee compensation plan was overdue for review and would be a necessary element of his overall review of how the city should move forward in the future.
One other area that Niblock commented on was his desire to create a strategic plan for the island, which would take the community into the next two decades; this after the city has just celebrated its twentieth anniversary.
Niblock continued to update council and the public as part of his reports during the monthly meetings, and promised transparency.