By Mary Thurwachter
After perusing Town Manager Deborah Manzo’s list of accomplishments from the past year, the Lantana Town Council was all set to award her a 5 percent raise, the top end of merit raises available to town employees this year. But before a vote was taken Nov. 26, Police Chief Sean Scheller stepped behind the podium to encourage the town to do better, or risk losing its prized manager to another municipality sure to come after her, he said.
“Over the last six years since I’ve been chief, she has taken me under her wing and showed me so much I wouldn’t have known. I guarantee you’re never going to find another manager like her,” Scheller said.
Town Attorney Max Lohman pointed out that the manager wasn’t able to get the 2.4 percent cost-of-living raise other employees receive.
After more discussion, council members decided on 7 percent (upward of $9,000).
Her current salary is $138,825, which Mayor David Stewart said was in line with pay for other managers of similarly sized municipalities in Palm Beach County.
“She’s one of the hardest working individuals I have come across,” said Vice Mayor Edward Shropshire, who made the motion for 7 percent.
Stewart praised her work to secure multiple grants for the town, find federal money to make repairs to town buildings after Hurricane Irma hit, get properties on the tax rolls, renegotiate the garbage pickup contract with Republic Services, participate in the League of Cities and routinely balance the budget.
“She brought in $2 million in grants alone,” said council member Lynn Moorhouse. “I grade her above and beyond.”
Stewart had proposed a 5 percent raise and voted against the larger increase.
“It does not send the right message when some employees only get a 2.4 percent raise, even though she maybe deserves it,” he said.
But council members made it clear Manzo is a valuable asset they don’t want to lose.
At Stewart’s recommendation, the terms of Manzo’s agreement changed to require that instead of 12 weeks’ notice, as her current contract dictates, if she chooses to leave, she would need to give 20 weeks. Her severance pay, if the town dismissed her, would cover 20 weeks instead of 12.
Manzo, who worked previously as assistant manager in Greenacres, was hired by Lantana in 2012 with an annual salary of $97,476. Within six months, she had refinanced the town’s water and sewer bonds, saving Lantana about $1 million over nine years. Her glowing evaluations translated to top raises.
By Mary Thurwachter