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Richard Danielson
By Richard Danielson March 30, 2012

Buckhorn creates budget and neighborhood empowerment director

As he campaigned for mayor, Bob Buckhorn repeatedly promised to create deputy mayors, one of them for neighborhoods and community empowerment.

This official, he said, would have a "primary mission” of advocating for and addressing the needs of neighborhoods. He further said this deputy mayor would oversee, among other things, community affairs, code enforcement, parks and recreation, neighborhood programs, and city programs to help businesses owned by women and minorities. Finally, he said the position would come from the elimination of redundant positions.

On Feb. 23, 2012, Buckhorn announced a reorganization at City Hall that gave new duties to city budget officer Dennis Rogero. As the city's new budget and neighborhood empowerment director, Rogero picked up responsibility for supervising neighborhood services. Jake Slater, the city's neighborhood services director, who reports to Rogero, oversees the code enforcement and business tax operations, community affairs, neighborhood and community relations and the Clean City program.

As part of the reorganization, Buckhorn consolidated three vacant positions: that of former economic development administrator Mark Huey, who left to become president and chief executive of the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County; the vacancy created when director of growth management and development services Cynthia Miller left for Atlanta; and the opening created when Cathie Schanz resigned as the parks department's program and organizational development manager. City officials estimated the consolidations will save more than $425,000 annually.

Buckhorn acknowledged in an interview on Feb. 28, 2012, that this job carries less wide-ranging authority and clout than another new job created in the same reorganization: administrator for economic opportunity.

"That was a case of splitting the baby,” he said. "I wanted to move all of the departments that touch the quality of life of neighborhoods in a very tangible sense” under one official.

"What I'm not ready to do yet, and it's largely a financial decision, is create a new slot, because I haven't figured out yet how we would do that and reduce the budget at the same time,” Buckhorn said.

Candidate Buckhorn promised to create a deputy mayor of neighborhoods and community empowerment. He ended up creating a job with some similarities, but not all of the authority that he had promised. The new position, for example, does not oversee parks and recreation or the city's office of women and minority business enterprise, as Buckhorn had promised. And the official who got the new responsibilities retains his duties overseeing the city's budget. By contrast, Buckhorn had promised a deputy mayor whose "primary mission” would be to advocate for and address the needs of neighborhoods. Buckhorn describes this as splitting the baby. We say Compromise.

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