By Tao Woolfe
Daniel Dugger, a captain in the Boynton Beach Police Department, was chosen as the new city manager after a lengthy and contentious special City Commission meeting on Aug. 30.
The field of three candidates was unexpectedly winnowed to two early in the evening when interim City Manager Jim Stables announced he was dropping out of the running.
Stables said he would resign from his post as of Sept. 30 to return to Tennessee and his family.
“I have been honored to serve with such a great team,” Stables said, referring to the city staff.
Stables had been a top-choice candidate of all five city commissioners. Besides Dugger, the other top candidate was Robert Curnow, a deputy city manager in Coral Springs.
At a City Commission meeting on Aug. 16, Mayor Ty Penserga had asked his colleagues to choose three to five favorite candidates from a pool of about 40. The special meeting on Aug. 30 was to determine what steps to take next.
Penserga said the commissioners had three options — continue to choose among the existing candidates, hire an outside headhunting firm to broaden the search, or have the Boynton Beach Human Resources Department re-advertise the job.
Then he opened the discussion up to the public.
The rest of the evening was a kind of verbal free-for-all, with many residents and non-residents speaking for and against Dugger and airing other grievances about the city and the commission.
Those who praised Dugger — and there were many — said he was invested in the city and its people, he is well liked, and brings 18 years of experience with the city to the job.
“We need somebody who is passionately invested, someone who has the whole city in mind — Dan Dugger,” said resident Jim Sussic, summing up the prevailing sentiment.
Those who spoke against Dugger knocked him for not having the minimal qualifications for the job.
Even before the special meeting, residents familiar with the candidates were urging commissioners to hire a headhunter to conduct a nationwide search for more qualified candidates.
That advice was repeated throughout both meetings, but the commission chose to ignore it.
“We are not Greenacres. Hire a headhunter to bring in executive level professionals,” resident Barbara Ready said at the Aug. 16 meeting.
Ready said she had looked at the entire pool of candidates and found most of them lacking in city manager-level experience.
At the Aug. 30 meeting, Ready again urged the commissioners to hire professionals to help find a city manager who would understand the complex workings of government and truly be a leader.
Commissioner Woodrow Hay, the only commissioner to vote against Dugger, was also in favor of hiring a headhunter.
Vice Mayor Angela Cruz said she had interviewed Curnow for two hours and found him qualified, but that once she had determined he was unwilling to move to Boynton Beach, she decided against him.
Commissioner Aimee Kelley agreed.
She added that Dugger’s experience with the city police force more than made up for his lack of credentials.
Penserga did not really discuss his rationale, but voted with the majority.
The city attorney and human resources staff will draft an agreement and contract with Dugger and bring it back to the commission at a future meeting.
Dugger holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix. He has risen through the city police ranks from patrol officer to detective first-grade. He became a sergeant in 2016 and last year was promoted to captain, according to his application.
Curnow holds a master’s degree in public administration from Barry University.
Curnow has worked for the city of Coral Springs for the last 10 years. He joined as an infrastructure manager, made his way up to assistant city manager and was named deputy city manager in 2019.
Stables was tapped for the interim city manager position at an April 25 special City Commission meeting. He had been the city’s fire chief for a little more than a year at the time.
The unanimous vote for Stables as interim city manager came days after the commission fired City Manager Lori LaVerriere after 10 years on the job.
It remains unclear exactly why LaVerriere was fired.