As the city of Live Oak looks to the future, it is referring back to its past. Live Oak has a city council and a city administrator, but it wants to change the city administrator’s title to a city manager.
Live Oak has not had a city manager since 1878, said council president Adam Prins.
City managers, unlike city administrators, have the power to hire and fire city employees and administrative officers, according to Live Oak’s council ordinance. They are also responsible for directing all the city’s departments and agencies, as well as enforcing charters, laws and acts by the city council.
In Florida, about 270 out of 400 cities have a manager position, according to the 2013 Florida Municipal Officials’ Manual.
Keith Mixon, the Live Oak District 5 councilman, said he supports the managerial position because city administrators face a lot of micromanaging from the city council. That’s why managers are so important, he said.
“It has nothing to do with power,” Mixon said. “The only power in the city belongs to the voters.”
The city of Cedar Key has also looked into creating a city manager position, said Cedar Key Commissioner Sue Colson. Commissioners discuss this change at the beginning of every budget cycle.
“It’s a great idea and a great position,” she said. “Unfortunately, we have budgetary issues, and we have to figure out how to pay for such a position.”
John Gill, the Live Oak city clerk, said the position will cost about $80,000.
Kerry Waldron, a Live Oak city administrator, said the city would not need to budget the city manager’s salary. Unlike in Cedar Key, the salary for the manager position already exists.
“Progressive communities tend to prosper and fair better through this type of managerial government,” Waldron said.
Councilman John Yulee, Sr. disagrees with the move. Of the five councilmen, Yulee was one of the two who voted no to the managerial position because he thinks the position would take away too much power from the council. Councilman Bennie Thomas also voted no.
“We’ve been doing a good job so far – why should we make the change?” Yulee said.
Garth “Sonny” Nobles, Jr., mayor of Live Oak, said he supports the change, but only if the city manager is not referred to as the chief executive officer of the city. This is how the position is referred to in the ordinance.
“In most cities, the mayor is considered to be the chief executive officer,” Nobles said.
Nobles argued that such language would cause confusion as to whom the duties of the executive chief would fall on.
Waldron said the ordinance concerning the change has to be passed twice before it can be put on the ballot for the residents of Live Oak to vote on. The mayor has 30 days from the date the ordinance is passed to veto it.
Live Oak held its first meeting on Feb. 25 and will hold its second meeting on March 11 at 6:30 p.m.