Oranges to Grapes
High-profile Florida city manager is poised to take the reins in Greenfield.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
The city of Greenfield’s seen more harmonious days. A recall election in June ousted two city councilmembers, creating a new majority that could change again with the November election.
But one issue appears to have reached consensus: the Oct. 9 hiring of Susan Stanton as city manager. Despite news reports anticipating controversy, no one protested during public comment, and the council vote was unanimous.
“I think it’s the high caliber of city manager that Susan is,” Greenfield Mayor John Huerta says. “The things she’s done are quite outstanding. We’re hoping she can demonstrate the same experience in Greenfield now that we are getting past the political divide.”
Greenfield has been without a permanent boss since April 2011, when former City Manager Roger Wong retired. Stanton begins Oct. 30 at an annual salary of $145,000 and an at-will contract.
She has managed two bigger cities in Florida, but her achievements in Largo and Lake Worth aren’t at the top of her Google results. She comes to Greenfield five years after becoming a woman and enduring national media attention about her sex change.
In 2007, after 14 years as Largo’s city manager, Stanton – then with the first name Steven – announced plans for sex-reassignment surgery. The council fired her a month later and she became the subject of widespread media attention, including a 2010 CNN documentary.
The city of Lake Worth hired Stanton in 2009 but fired her less than three years later. Lake Worth officials did not return calls, but Stanton chalks the ouster up to politics: Two of the commissioners who opposed her in the 3-2 vote had just been elected. “I was called to come in and rescue a city from just about financial bankruptcy,” she says. “It involved a lot of unpleasant decisions.”
Huerta says Stanton rose to the top of Greenfield’s applicant pool because of her skills in labor negotiations and her success in attracting new cultural centers to Largo. “Communities across the nation are looking to raise revenues, and she did those things,” he says. “[Hiring her] is a bold move, but it goes back to her experience and qualifications.”
Although the new job will literally distance Stanton from her past, she’ll have a full plate of squabbles waiting for her in Greenfield.
The Nov. 6. election could again reconfigure the council that hired her. Five candidates are vying for the two seats now occupied by Yvette Gonzalez and Agapito Vazquez, who replaced former councilmembers Yolanda Teneyuque and John Martinez in the June recall.
The recall vindicated residents who opposed a merger of Greenfield and Soledad police departments. The current deal for shared police-chief services expires in March, giving the council the option to regain its own chief.
Stanton wants to learn more about the issue before weighing in, but she’s reluctant to pursue a merger. “The relationship with police services is a very intimate thing,” she says. “Once you cut that off, you lose an outreach tool for the community.”
A stand-alone police department takes money – and the city’s hungry for economic development. On Sept. 25, the council began the process of annexing land for a new Yanks Air Museum facility; it’s also working on a specific plan for the Walnut Avenue commercial district.
Interim City Manager Brent Slama will have two weeks to bring Stanton up to speed before starting as Soledad community development director Nov. 12.
Stanton says she’ll emphasize community dialogue. “I’m a very high-energy person. I need to be mindful that the things we need to do are not going to be done in 90 days or the first year.”