By Dan Moffett
After months of often contentious debate, Briny Breezes is entering the new year with major changes to the town’s leadership and government structure.
For the first time in its 55-year history, Briny will have a town manager. Council members unanimously approved a contract hiring veteran municipal manager Dale Sugerman on Dec. 28, hoping that his 40 years of experience will improve government operations.
Sugerman will earn $36,000 annually and work 20-25 hours a week in the part-time position. He began Jan. 2.
This won’t be the first time that Sugerman creates a manager position from nothing. In 1989, he became the first manager in Sunrise history when he helped the Broward County municipality change from a strong mayor form of government.
Sugerman most recently served as assistant manager of Delray Beach, until retiring last year. He was manager of Lake Park from 2012 to 2015 and before that spent four years as Highland Beach’s manager and six as an assistant manager in Boynton Beach.
He also has worked in Slater, Mo.; Oberlin, Ohio; and Palm Bay.
“Nothing is going to come up that surprises me,” he told the council through a smile.
A native of Cleveland, Sugerman earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s in urban administration from the University of Missouri. He holds a doctorate in conflict resolution from Lynn University.
Sugerman said he hopes to improve relations between the council and residents. They have differed in recent months over code enforcement and budget issues.
“I know you’ve had some contentious meetings,” he told the council. “I want to bring down the temperature by listening to everybody, improving communication and teaching. I will go overboard in listening, but in the end, democracy will prevail. I’m sorry, but this is how democracy works.”
Improving relations between the Town Council and the corporate board will be another priority, Sugerman said.
“I don’t know how the actors behave,” he said, “but I understand how things are supposed to work.”
The new town manager will be working with an overhauled Town Council with three new faces.
Incumbents Bobby Jurovaty and Jim McCormick withdrew their candidate applications for the March election at the eleventh hour in December after two challengers — Bill Birch and Kathy Gross — came forward to contest the seats.
McCormick said his withdrawal would “save the town $8,000,” the cost of holding an election.
Jurovaty said he was frustrated by the increasing friction between Briny’s corporate board and the Town Council, and thought it was time to step aside.
Birch and Gross will be working alongside a new mayor when they begin their terms in March. Roger Bennett, who served as mayor between 2007 and 2013, returns for another term, replacing Mike Hill.
The council installed Bennett with a 3-2 vote on Nov. 30. Jurovaty, McCormick and Chick Behringer voted for him; council President Sue Thaler and Alderwoman Christina Adams supported Hill, who had also applied.
Jurovaty said the bad relations with the corporation was the reason he decided not to run for another term as alderman. He said as soon as another candidate stepped forward to replace him, he tore up his election filing papers.
“I think the concept of corporation and town is a failed experiment,” Jurovaty said. “It’s a cancerous situation — not just the beginning of cancer but advanced. The board has become radicalized. I thought I could make things better but I failed. You can’t put your heart in something you stopped believing in.”
In other business, Briny Breezes made an important change on Dec. 28 when the council gave unanimous final approval to an ordinance that gives the town the option of hiring a magistrate or assembling a citizens enforcement board to resolve code disputes with homeowners.
Thaler said she hoped the change would help the town enforce its building rules, promote compliance and ensure residents’ safety.