A 3-2 secret ballot vote led to a unanimous public confirmation of former General Counsel for the 96th Test Wing David Deitch as Niceville’s first new City Manager in over half a century. He will replace outgoing city manager Lannie Corbin, who will retire after 52 years of service to the City of Niceville.
“I’m following a man who’s been in this position longer than I’ve been alive. The city next month will celebrate its 155th birthday,” Deitch told the council, “he’s been leading the city for more than a third of that time. And so following that legacy is going to be hard.”
Before voting unanimously to offer Deitch the job in a public vote, each city councilperson handed in a secret ballot to the mayor to determine which of the two finalists would be offered the job initially.
That vote was 3-2 in favor of the retired colonel, who has been retired officially from the Air Force for two weeks. Because of the nature of the secret ballot, it was not possible to determine who voted for whom.
Another Niceville resident Kristen Shell was the other candidate for the City’s top unelected post. She is the current deputy director of planning and zoning for Walton County’s Board of County Commissioners in DeFuniak Springs.
“We had two outstanding, outstanding candidates,” said Councilman Sal Nodjomian, “And we’re blessed to be able to choose, because it’s a very big decision. We’re making a decision, but [the city employees are] the ones that are going to be living with it all – the staff and direct reports and all of our citizens. And I’m personally grateful that we had candidates like that to select from.”
City Councilmembers asked each candidate for about an hour a piece before voting on their preferred candidate. Candidates were asked questions ranging from whether or not they had ever fired anyone to what their leadership style is like and how they would deal with a hurricane strike on the city,
Now the city council and Deitch will have to agree on his start date and pay. Salary.com notes that the average pay for a city manager in Florida is between $97,000 and $119,00 per year – but that number can vary widely depending on city size.
Deitch granted Mid Bay News an interview after his appointment. He talked about his excitement for the new job, one of his plans to deal with the lack of affordable housing in the city and you can check that out here:
“I’m going to be a passionate leader that listens. I’m looking forward to getting out and listening to what the needs and the desires are of my neighbors, listening to what their stresses are,” Deitch said, “what they are enthusiastic about – what they would like to see. I look forward to serving my neighbors here in Niceville.”
No official start date has been noted, but Deitch indicated he could begin immediately in his interview with the city council.
David Deitch was most recently the General Counsel for the 96th Test Wing, located at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Deitch retired from the Air Force after 24 years in the military – many of those years as JAG Officer. Deitch served at Langley, Keesler and Lackland Air Force Bases – along with several other assignments. He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University – Carbondale and received his law degree from Stetson University. He is married and has two sons.
In the kind of local government Niceville has, called the ‘weak mayor’ or ‘council-manager’ form of government, the City Manager works as the local government’s executive branch subject to the legislative branch (the city council) and does what they tell him or her to do. The council passes the budget and the rules – and the city manager enacts those policies, makes hiring and firing decisions, and takes care of the other day-to-day operations a city is responsible for. The city manager serves as the boss for the police and fire chiefs, water and sewer departments, roads (no, not State Route 20 – that’s a state road) and other functions of the city government.
The only person who can fire the city manager is the city council, who must make a majority vote. But, the city council doesn’t have hiring and firing authority over employees – that is the city manager’s purview.
The city manager form of government is very popular for smaller to medium-sized cities – as the city council people typically are not trained in municipal management and are part-time volunteers.