Mayor’s efficiency challenge sends shock waves through Village government
The future of two key positions in Key Biscayne village staff -- the Village Manager’s performance and the Village Clerk leaving for promotion – was in the spotlight of the most recent Village Council meeting, for very different reasons.
Mayor Mike Davey began the Feb. 11 meeting by reading what seemed to be a surprise letter questioning Village Manager Andrea Agha’s role in delays carrying out the direction of the council. He questioned whether “our bureaucracy is growing at the expense of the original vision of Key Biscayne.”
He asked council members to come back at the March 9 meeting with lists of what they think is going well and what they think is not going well. Then, at the following council meeting, Agha is to give her plan of action to address the items that are not deemed to be going well.
Davey specified that Agha’s plan should identify the person responsible for implementation and a completion timeline.
In a follow-up interview after the council meeting, Davey explained that he had intended to stick to only the contents of the letter, which also was published in the Feb. 13 e-edition of Islander News, but he inadvertently referenced problems he’d related to the manager during her year and half tenure.
“We need to be straight. I want to be up front and honest and she and I have had a lot of conversations,” Davey said. “I’m not happy where we are. I didn’t want this to become public. I don’t feel like we have a plan moving forward. I feel that everybody wants to talk about process and they don’t want to talk about results. We need to be better, this community deserves better.’’
Davey said he stands by the themes of increased efficiency and timely completion of projects. He expressed regret, however, for the tone of the council discussions prompted by the letter.
“I would have rather had it come out in a less contentious way. I would have rather gotten to that point without the acrimony that occurred (at the council meeting),” the mayor said in an interview with the Islander News. “I think that was unfortunate. At the end of the day, we’ve got to be working to make this thing better. We’re there to serve the residents.”
Davey noted that he has only one vote on the council, which ultimately votes as a group to determine who fills village staff positions.
“I want the projects to get done. I got to a point where I had to be frank. I don’t think it’s a good fit. It’s not personal. She’s not a bad person. I’m just trying to look out for the village,’’ he said.
“Either things get better in an effective, efficient way or they don’t,” Davey continued. “That’s where we are. This may end of lighting a fire. Things will improve and we’ll be able to move on.’’
Agha’s response to the mayor’s public criticism was surprise, but also conciliatory. Agha said she believes she and council members share the same goal of serving the residents in the best way possible.
“I was not expecting to get caught in that way,” she said in an interview. “I wish we would have been able to work things out in a less offensive way to the community. There are things that we need to work on and we need to work together.”
Moving forward, Agha vowed to work closely with the council to resolve any issues. She said she looks forward to feedback from council members, as well as establishing plans of actions and realistic timetables.
She said realigning the thresholds at which formal bidding for purchases is required should help reduce staff workload. “Addressing the threshold was a great first start,’’ she said.
Also helpful are “boiler plate” sections of documents that can be easily filled out to “very quickly turn around a consistent, standardized transparent document that will hold both the department accountable as well as the vendors,’’ she said.
Overall, the village council’s communication of priorities -- and developing a consensus on the steps for positive progress -- will be key to the future of Key Biscayne, Agha said.
“At the end of the day things (will be) working better and the end result will be a more effective government,” said the village manager. “But it takes time. Communicating why we’re doing things and our manner of implementation could help smooth things over. I love Key Biscayne. We have a mission to deliver and we will deliver.”
Council member Katie Petros said she thought it was “unfortunate” how Davey’s message was delivered. “I found that to be off-putting and potentially divisive,” she said. “However I think sometimes when there are flashpoints, we need to figure out as a council how to move past it and to come together.
“We know we need to haggle and yet it’s very difficult to figure out how to make those productive forward steps. We need to correct our own ability to work together and to give clear, concise direction,’’ she added.
The Feb. 11 council meeting was Village Clerk Jennifer Medina’s final one after 12 years. She has taken the position of Village Manager for Indian Creek Village. In her new role, Medina said she will be responsible for implementing the goals, policies and objectives of the Village Council, and will also oversee day-to-day operations of the government.
“The Village of Key Biscayne welcomed me with open arms and it’s with a heavy heart that I announced my resignation,” Medina said. “I sincerely appreciate the opportunity for growth and professional development Key Biscayne has offered me.
“The unforgettable Key Biscayne memories and long lasting relationships I have made along the way will forever be in my heart.”
Medina will be replaced on an interim basis by former Village Clerk, Conchita Alvarez.