In Suprise Move, Cottrell Named Manager in IRB Over Ockunzzi Protests
by Leo Coughlin
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - In a move that caught all hands by surprise, Steve Cottrell was named as Indian Rocks Beach new full-time city manager at the City Commission meeting Tuesday night.
Cottrell got the strong endorsement of four of the commission members while Mayor Bill Ockunzzi fought teeth and nail against the move.
With the hiring of Cottrell, IRB has a chance of stopping its leaderless drift with all the petty and nitpicking distractions that have been going on in the city.
The key to Cottrell's success - and the success of the city - is that there be an end to the micro-managing and interference in the manager's job.
That seemed to be the atmosphere growing out of Tuesday's meeting with none of the obstacles Ockunzzi tried to throw up gaining any traction.
Since the micro-managing in city hall began - back in Tom Brobeil's time - the city has had no steady hand in the city manager's office.
As it turns out, this period of turmoil coincides with Ockunzzi's time on the commission - first as a commissioner and in the past two-plus years as mayor.
Brobeil was run off because he was micro-managed and interfered with and IRB consequently lost a first-class manager.
His successor, John Coffey, was treated as a puppet and when push came to shove he got no backing for his authority from an Ockunzzi-dominated commission.
Then Al Grieshaber came on the scene and although apparently very amenable to being micro-managed his tenure came to an end at the beginning of this year in much uproar and turmoil, the effects of which have not yet played out with a pending law suit.
Ockunzzi Tuesday night introduced the subject of Cottrell's status by saying that he had heard from Cottrell that day with the indication that "four commissioners want (Cottrell) hired as manager."
A discussion ensued with Ockunzzi finding all sorts of objections.
Finally, Commissioner Jose Coppen moved that Cottrell be hired and the vote went 4-1, with Ockunzzi opposed, sadly enough.
Cottrell has a two year contract with a starting salary of $95,500, plus other standard benefits. He will be paid six months salary as part of a severance arrangement if he is dismissed.
Cottrell has been serving as interim city manager. The former Belleair manager is popular in the city and the city has been the beneficiary of his experience and expertise.
He previously indicated he was not inclined to take the job mostly because of the micro-managing and interference factor. But according to knowledgeable observers assurances were given that he would have the freedom to exercise his professional ability without interference.
If that proves to be the case, Indian Rocks Beach will be out of the woods with a first-class manager and can put behind it all the nonsense that has taken place over the recent past.
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