By Dan Moffett
It took South Palm Beach only three weeks to fill its vacant town manager’s position — at least for the short term.
During a hastily called special meeting on Dec. 19, the Town Council unanimously voted to hire on an interim basis former Sewall’s Point and Hillsboro Beach manager Robert Kellogg to replace Mo Thornton, who abruptly resigned in November after 11 months on the job.
Town Attorney Glen Torcivia worked with Kellogg during his seven-year tenure as Sewall’s Point manager, which ended in 2013. And Town Clerk Yude Alvarez worked with him during his two-year stay in Hillsboro Beach, ending in 2016. Both told the council that Kellogg was right for South Palm Beach.
“He was a great manager,” Alvarez said. “He was a good listener. If you had any issues, he would sit down one-on-one and get your side of it. He was excellent. It was a pleasure to work with him.”
Since this was the fourth time in the last four years the town has had to hire a manager, Mayor Bonnie Fischer said she was putting a premium on harmony.
“We have two people who have worked with him and have had a good rapport,” Fischer said. “I think that’s very important. Sometimes when the staff doesn’t get along very well it can create friction.”
The council interviewed two other candidates during the meeting: Barry M. Feldman, the former city manager in West Hartford, Conn., who is retired and sits on the Delray Beach police pension board; and William Thrasher, the manager in Gulf Stream for 21 years before he retired and took a 90-day interim manager job last summer in Highland Beach.
The council focused mostly on Kellogg and Thrasher because of their familiarity with coastal communities and Florida law. “I think Bob has a better take on this town right now,” Fischer said.
In Hillsboro Beach, Kellogg helped oversee a $2.1 million beach restoration project — experience that could be useful in guiding South Palm through its controversial beach stabilization groin plan with Palm Beach County.
Before moving to Florida in 2006, Kellogg was for 20 years the city manager in Rittman, Ohio, a municipality near Akron with a population of about 6,500.
“I’ve worked to improve the quality of life everywhere I’ve been,” Kellogg said. “That’s what I’d want to do here.”
Kellogg, 65, was to officially start on Jan. 2, though he said he’d meet with staff members sooner. Torcivia said he hoped to have a contract negotiated by the council’s Jan. 8 meeting. Kellogg is expected to earn between $1,800 and $2,000 a week. Thornton’s salary was $105,000 a year, or about $2,000 per week.
Neither the council nor the interim manager is ruling out a long-term relationship.
“I’m looking at this like it’s our engagement,” Kellogg told council members. “If things work out, maybe we’ll get married.”
In other business, two council members are facing challenges in the March 12 municipal election, but Fischer is unopposed in the town’s mayoral race and ensured another two-year term.
Councilwoman Elvadianne Culbertson and Councilman Bill LeRoy qualified for the March race for two at-large seats, along with Kevin Hall and Mark Weissman.
Hall, the property manager of Palmsea Condominiums, made an unsuccessful bid for the council last March.
Weissman moved to South Palm Beach two years ago from Parkland. He served 15 years as a city commissioner there, and served as a Democratic representative in the Florida House from 2000 to 2002.