LARGO – Never underestimate the infighting of an old dog.
City Manager Steve Stanton has never really cottoned to the idea of Pinch A Penny being part of the super block development at East Bay and U.S. 19.
Fred Thomas, founder of that company, has battled every inch of the way to make his company part of that scenario.
But the battling has been subtle, also persistent, and maybe clever, too, because at first going head to head with Boulder Venture, the other entrepreneur involved in the development, both sides were opposed and dug in, but when all seemed dim an accord was reached.
Thomas came forth Tuesday night at the Largo City Commission’s regular meeting and pointed out that when the commission sets a policy that should trump any considerations to the contrary by the city staff.
He made his statement during citizen comments and might have perplexed his auditors wondering what he was referring to.
Thomas succinctly phrased a question – again subtlety being the overriding theme – “Does the city manager make policy or does the commission do so?”
Now jump to the tail end of the meeting where the manager, Steve Stanton, with that demeanor exemplifying that butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, stood four square for the proposition, by golly, that when the commission makes policy the staff should fully support it.
Put that under gracious losing when your hand has been caught in the cookie jar, maybe.
While Stanton’s words would evince a situation quite to the contrary of what Thomas had asserted, perception is reality and the fact is that Mayor Bob Jackson, along with Thomas, journeyed to Tallahassee last week to present to state officials the lay of the land regarding the super block development.
And Tuesday night, Jackson bemoaned the fact that in connection with that pilgrimage last week that the staff “did not adopt a rationale that supported the decision of the commission.”
So maybe it’s misunderstanding or, more likely, what seems to be obviously nuanced – the Thomas and Stanton battle is still going on. Of course, there is ongoing conflict between Jackson and Stanton.
After all, it was Thomas who, not too many weeks ago, told Stanton in an open meeting (and in most pleasant tones) that he “was going to win” the contention that was in issue.
As commissioners made their comments at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, it was clear that Thomas had sent letters to the commissioners advising them of his observation that there needed to be a clear understanding on who did and did not set policy in the city.
Having just minutes earlier become a full fledged citizen of Largo with the official annexation of his home into the city, Thomas might have had second thoughts as Commissioner Gay Gentry mentioned his letter and his “strong accusations” toward the staff.
Fortunately, Thomas is an old hand at this and has weathered these kinds of wind storms before and probably had no real regrets at being in the same state of sovereign citizenry as Gentry.
What he did do was bring out the simmering, beneath the surface warfare that is going on in Largo.
It was handled with sang froid and noblesse oblige. But it was there. And it was palpable.
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