By Tim Pallesen
City Hall has undergone a transformation in the 18 months since Mayor Cary Glickstein and Commissioner Shelly Petrolia were elected.
New top administrators are in place.The addition of Jordana Jarjura to the commission last March gives Glickstein and Petrolia a frequent third vote on key issues.
“I’m happy to say we’ve turned the Titanic,” Glickstein said.
The new regime was voted into office on a wave of public concern over Atlantic Avenue development and how the previous administration had handled city finances.
“The commission is now more aligned to move the city forward with a new progressive, businesslike way of thinking, which is to say there is a majority completely untethered to past practices that were often governed by ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ ” Glickstein said.
Glickstein and Petrolia struggled their first year as the minority on the commission. But then Jarjura got elected by pledging fiscal responsibility and preserving Delray’s unique village-by-the-sea character, too.
“It’s given us a great ability to paint our own picture,” Petrolia said. “This is a great opportunity, and we’ve grasped it.
“It’s all going to depend on the operating majority and how strongly we stick together,” she added.
Jarjura calls it “simplistic” to say the three commissioners vote as a bloc. “I view my colleagues and myself as independent thinkers who approach problems from our unique perspectives and do the best we can to build consensus,” she clarified.
The mayor also clarified that the women are “independent-thinking professionals.”
But the three agree on key issues such as new downtown development regulations, police and fire pension reform and whether interim city manager Terry Stewart has proven himself for the permanent job.
Glickstein said city government required “deconstruction” before it could move forward. Several department heads retired, and the former city manager was fired.
discuss budgets during a Delray Beach City Commission meeting.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
A nationwide search is underway now for a new manager, but Stewart is the front-runner to be the city’s chief operating officer. “It’s his job to lose,” Glickstein said.
New hires with strong backgrounds such as City Attorney Noel Pffeffer, Planning and Zoning Director Dana Little, Parks and Recreation Director Suzanne Davis and Chief Financial Officer Jack Warner already are in place.
The new land development regulations to be approved later this year will eliminate the height and density incentives that developers got to build downtown.
“We have seen projects approved in the past that fell far short of what we should demand for our city,” Jarjura said. “We must ensure going forward that we do better.”
Glickstein said new rules will relieve the anxiety that became a campaign issue for residents seeking to preserve the city’s village-by-the-sea character.
“I’m hopeful that the new LDRs [land development regulations] will take the development debate off the table,” Glickstein said. “People won’t feel fear over what might be slipping away.”
With a new team at City Hall and the city’s character secure, the mayor can dream about Delray’s future.
One idea is to build a business incubator next to the city library that would attract robotics engineers, software designers and other young entrepreneurs. “I want to harness a very creative class,” the mayor said.
“We as a city now need to focus on our strength, which is the unique vibe our town has,” he said. “We can have it all on our terms. But don’t mess up the vibe in this town, which at the end of the day is a small town."