By Rich Pollack

When Highland Beach Town Manager Marshall Labadie arrived to lead the town’s staff in October, he inherited a team with quite a few key vacancies.
Outside consultants were temporarily leading the Finance Department, and the Building Department and the Public Works Department director’s positions were unfilled. At the same time, an outside firm was handling code enforcement.
Fast forward less than six weeks after the town manager’s arrival and Labadie is on his way to building a staff that will bring fresh eyes and new approaches to how Town Hall addresses key tasks.
Labadie has hired a new finance director, who is taking a strategic-oriented approach to budgeting, a new building official whose background will come in handy as the town prepares for the potential of sea-level rise, and a code enforcement officer with a focus on being proactive.
Labadie also hopes to have a new public services director and an assistant to the town manager in place by the end of the year.
Filling staff positions quickly, Labadie says, was a priority.
“There are things that have to be in place in order to move forward with mission-critical projects and functions,” he said.
At least one town commissioner credits Labadie’s experience in local government for helping to make sure positions were filled quickly with qualified candidates.
“He’s done this type of work for so long that he knows what to look for,” said Commissioner Peggy Gossett-Seidman. “Everything is definitely moving forward.”
Labadie’s arrival coincided with the town’s transition from an outside firm handling Building Department and code enforcement functions to building and code enforcement services being brought in house.
He quickly hired Jeffrey Massie, an experienced building inspector who held positions in Pompano Beach and Oakland Park in Broward County, to head up the team. Massie’s background as a structural plans examiner will be an asset, Labadie says, as the town faces the potential threat from sea-level rise.
“He will help us ensure that what we build is properly suited for the future,” the manager said.
To reinvigorate the town’s code enforcement functions, which had come under fire from several town commissioners who thought enough wasn’t being done, Labadie brought in Jason Manko, who had previous experience in code enforcement also in Broward County.
“He has a fresh set of eyes on code enforcement with a resident-focused proactive approach,” Labadie said.
Already, Manko is getting praise from residents for his visibility within the community.
“We had a resident stop and say that he’d seen the code enforcement officer about eight times in one week,” Gossett-Seidman said.
Also new to the staff is Matthew Lalla, the town’s finance director. Lalla, who served as a finance director in Hollywood and as interim treasurer in Fort Lauderdale, will help the town reshape its budgeting process to add a more strategic approach, Labadie said.
“We want to ensure that we’re budgeting for our goals and objectives,” the manager said.
Labadie said he is reshaping the public works director position and changing the name to public services director. The goal, he said, is to have that position more focused on key projects and the big picture and less on the day-to-day operations.
Labadie still plans to hire an assistant to the town manager, someone he hopes will focus on communications with residents as well as assisting with project management.
The town has received résumés from more than two dozen people interested in the position, he said.

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