Tropical storms and hurricanes can wreak havoc on Florida cities. Roads, utilities, emergency services and infrastructure can be strained or interrupted during and after these tropical storms. Hurricane season doesn’t seem to be an optimal time for a city to forgo permanent department leadership in critical departments like Public Works and Fire Rescue, and Police, but that’s the position the City of Mount Dora currently faces.
Mount Dora is also in the middle of planning its budget and determining its tax rate, yet it hasn’t had a permanent finance director since February.
The longest permanent management vacancy is the city’s Fire Chief, which has been vacant for over a year. Since then Deputy Chief Rich Loewer has been serving as the prolonged and capable Interim Chief. Loewer, who has served with the department for almost two decades and is an integral part of the City’s emergency management and ISO and accreditation processes, has yet to have the permanent position extended to him by the City Manager.
Interim Police Chief Mike Gibson, a former MDPD captain and respected 27-year veteran of Orange County Sheriff’s Office, has been in his current interim position as Interim Police Chief for the shortest period of time due to the resignation of Chief Brett Meade last June.
City Managers can opt to hire the qualified interim department heads or conduct an outside search for their replacements. According to the City, no searches to fill the crucial positions are underway, so it's unclear why the interim managers haven't been offered the permanent positions. City Manager Patrick Comiskey did not respond to Mount Dora Buzz's questions about the reason for the lack of searches or whether the interim management personnel were likely to become permanent. Comiskey also didn't respond to whether the interim directors were being compensated appropriately for their added responsibilities.
The potential short-term benefit of not making interim directors permanent or searching for replacements is saving money, while the potential longer-term outcomes are low morale, job uncertainty and the risk of qualified interim directors and their staff seeking employment elsewhere for professional recognition and salaries commensurate with their responsibilities.
Meanwhile, the budget for the city’s 2022-2023 fiscal year is being prepared by Interim Finance Director Rita Meade. The City's budget and tax rate will be adopted in September.