County Manager Nomination Opens Door To More Change
Written by Miami Today on January 18, 2001
When Mayor Alex Penelas on Tuesday picked Steve Shiver to be the next Miami-Dade County manager, it was a prelude to a series of vital decisions.
County commissioners have 14 days to approve or turn down Mr. Shiver for the manager’s job. Mr. Penelas says he expects them to vote Jan. 23.
Meanwhile, Mr. Shiver was to meet Wednesday with the top 14 aides to outgoing manager Merrett Stierheim to begin assessing his potential team. For many, it would be their first contact with him.
At the same time, Mr. Shiver is preparing to leave the mayor’s post in Homestead. He said Tuesday he expects the city’s seven commissioners to make Vice Mayor Roscoe Warren, "a very strong candidate," the city’s first African-American mayor.
Mr. Shiver is also considering how to wrap up his business affairs — his real estate brokerage, construction company and security firm — to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest. He said he is weighing ownership by his wife, outright sale or some alternative that his attorney has yet to suggest.
Also pending, said Mr. Penelas, is when Mr. Shiver would take over and how long — if at all — Mr. Stierheim would remain active in county government afterward.
Mr. Penelas said he expects Mr. Stierheim to be on the job at least in some capacity until his contract expires March 15.
Mr. Shiver’s salary is also an issue. Both Mr. Penelas and Mr. Shiver said Tuesday they had not yet discussed a contract. Mr. Penelas said pay would not necessarily equal Mr. Stierheim’s $188,170 and will certainly not approach the $330,000 that Ira Clark receives as top-paid county employee in heading Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Whatever Mr. Shiver’s pay, Mayor Penelas said he expects the county commission to increase his own $108,720 salary to exceed it.
County Mayor Penelas on Tuesday repeatedly called his selection of Mr. Shiver to become county manager a bold move and stated that Mr. Shiver would act energetically and independently.
Mr. Shiver echoed the comments, saying that the mayor "has given me assurances that I can live up to requirements prescribed in" the county charter, which offer the manager independence in making appointments and directing county staff. "I have had assurances from the mayor that he will not overstep that charter requirement."
The selection, Mr. Penelas said, gave him a major opportunity to select someone with fresh ideas who would think outside the box about government problems.
He repeatedly cited Mr. Shiver’s high energy and enthusiasm as key ingredients in his selection.
Mr. Penelas said he consulted a California-based head-hunting firm he had used in the past and said he was advised to put a premium on local knowledge in selecting a manager. He said he seriously considered five or six persons within county government before picking Mr. Shiver, an outsider, because he wanted "bold new ideas."
Mr. Penelas said he expects no problems in getting commission confirmation, saying that six of the 13 commissioners attended a press conference announcing Mr. Shiver’s selection and three more support the choice.
In selecting the outgoing manager, Merrett Stierheim, Mr. Penelas said, he started with only three votes — with 10 commissioners opposed to the choice.
The mayor made it clear in an interview after the press conference that he expects Mr. Shiver to work one-on-one with the more than 40 county department heads, rather than merely approaching them through the 14 upper-level administrators who now report directly to the manager.
Responding to criticism that Mr. Shiver — who has never worked in government administration — would be lost in the massive county government, Mr. Penelas replied: "They don’t know Steve."
Mr. Shiver said his nomination Tuesday was preceded by discussions that began in early December as Mr. Penelas sorted what he says were more than a dozen candidates for the county’s top administrative post.
They talked again just before the holidays, Mr. Shiver said, and agreed Friday that he would be named manager.
Mayor Penelas, whose term ends in November 2004, said he hopes Mr. Shiver will remain county manager until that time.
That is likely to be costly to Mr. Shiver, who heads three businesses in Homestead while serving as mayor.
That was not an issue in his decision, he said, and he didn’t consider it.
"I’m not driven by money," he said. "I’m driven by challenge and goals."
In a memo to Mr. Shiver dated Tuesday, Mayor Penelas listed "important issues that must be promptly addressed." They are:
nTo facilitate and encourage fresh and innovative ideas from department directors and "re-invigorate government with fresh solutions to traditional problems." That implies giving department directors "the freedom to run their departments professionally."
nAdd to procurement reform and speed the building and permitting process. "It would be an understatement to say how disappointed and frustrated I am with the progress in those areas," the mayor said.
nDevelop a public sector mission statement "to assure the attainment of the desired goals," a program he noted has been repeatedly called for in Miami Today. "A structured strategic mission statement, developed jointly with the board and myself, with input from the community, must focus on how best to accomplish our goals."
He listed among those goals an improved transportation system, customer service, safe quality neighborhoods, a healthy economy, quality of life, effective and ethical government and community pride.
nA strategy to allow municipal incorporations "in a rational way that will mitigate the negative effects on the residents of the remaining unincorporated area."
nDeveloping an infrastructure plan for the future.
nCreating a comprehensive economic development policy with an adequate dedicated financing source.
nWorking across county boundaries to meet common regional needs.
Mr. Shiver Tuesday acknowledged the difficulties of heading a staff of 28,000 as his first administrative step with the county.
He said he has done some homework — "the Internet is a great thing" — and that he met Tuesday afternoon with outgoing Mr. Stierheim and had a "very frank" and "great conversation."
He said Mr. Stierheim offered his support to smooth the transition as his contract expires March 15.
Mr. Stierheim declined comment Tuesday on the change in administration.
One key decision on the front burner is appointment of an aviation director to replace Gary Dellapa, who resigned 10 months ago but remains on the job pending the naming of a replacement.
Mayor Penelas and Mr. Shiver both said Mr. Stierheim might well make that appointment during his tenure. The mayor said he asked only that the person appointed be "someone who enjoys the confidence of the mayor."
Mr. Shiver said he and the mayor had not discussed the specifics of that position.
Might Mr. Stierheim stay on the job after Mr. Shiver wins county commission approval?
"If he chooses to, that’s wonderful," Mr. Shiver said. "I’ll sit out in the lobby and work with him."
And while he said he was "leaving a very comfortable position" as Homestead mayor, he said he is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get involved.