Manager Gay gets mixed reviews at evaluation

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Chiefland's new city manager thinks enough of his performance in the first six months on the job to give himself a perfect score on his first self-evaluation.

But it appears at least some commissioners have taken off the rose-colored glasses in their review of Kevin Gay's short time with the city.

Several commissioners at Monday night's evaluation of Gay had problems with the city manager's relationship with area media organizations, city employees, the public and county officials.

Commissioner Chris Jones said some residents and business owners are not happy with Gay, and a few employees said they "actually feel somewhat threatened. That was the most shocking part of it."

Jones said he feels Gay has done a lot of damage to the city's relationship with the county in his dealings with Levy County officials in recent months.

"It feels like it's going to be hard to repair," Jones said.

Commissioner Betty Walker shared similar views.

"As a person, I like Mr. Gay, but he comes off very strong. ... When we lose communication with our county, then we have lost a lot," she said.

Walker also said she's concerned about Gay's relationship with city employees and his "my-way-or-no-way" manner. She expressed dismay at Gay's actions and words at the city's last meeting Nov. 12, as well, criticizing him for foul language he used with regard to alleged rumors being spread around town.

"That was so unprofessional," Walker said, adding that there were children and church goers in the audience.

Commissioner Rollin Hudson, agreeing with much of what Jones and Walker had to say, said, "I think Commissioner Jones did the best evaluation."

Although, he added, Gay should not be held entirely responsible for recent relations with county officials, explaining that the city manager had been sent alone, which was a mistake by the commission.

Hudson also took some of the blame for some resentment on the part of South Chiefland residents who have received letters from Gay instructing them to clean up unsightly conditions on their properties. Hudson said he was against the letters, but admitted, "I didn't voice my opinion strong enough."

This job is Gay's first experience running a small city, Hudson said. "I understand that, too, it's (only) been six months. It's his first shot." That what the evaluation is for, he said. "If things don't go right six months from now, we got a different story."

Vice Mayor Teresa Barron said Gay can't be held to blame for any resentment between the city and the county.

"I think Mr. Gay went over there and did what he was supposed to do." The county has always had a problem with Chiefland, she said. "And I think it's because we challenge them."

She added that Gay is very responsive to requests from residents and officials, such as herself, and that he's doing what he can to help bring business into Chiefland.

"He gives 125 percent. He is a go-getter. I hope these evaluations don't hurt his feelings" and keep him from continuing to put forth so much effort.

Mayor Teal Pomeroy agreed with Barron on the issues with the county, reinforcing the idea that the two governmental bodies have had conflicts for years, but, he said, he doesn't believe it's impossible to rebuild a relationship with county officials.

Pomeroy also supported Gay on the letters sent to South Chiefland residents, describing some properties as a garbage heap.

"You all know what I'm talking about when you get down on the south end of town."

Gay did that to encourage businesses to move into town, he said. Gay has said a businessperson considering moving into Chiefland would not get a good impression of the city's south entrance where the city's industrial park is located. 

"I enjoy working with Mr. Gay, and I believe he is the man for the job."

Gay later asked Jones to relay to any employees who might have complained that they are always welcome to come and speak to him about issues. "My door is wide open," he said. "If they feel that way, it's, I don't know ... it's because of their own whatever."

Gay also apologized to Walker for his crude language at the Nov. 12 meeting.

Area politician and business man Stoney Smith, one of several people to speak during public comment, said he gets along with Gay, in general, but has had some issues, mostly due to poor communication. Other business owners have told Smith the same thing, he said. He told the commission and Gay that any perceived harshness in the comments on his evaluation should be kept in perspective.

"These comments are to make our city better," he said.