June 22, 2021 – Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron retires July 2 leaving a legacy that is distinguished by leadership – and a nationally awarded governmental Leadership Academy – as well as a list of accomplishments, including improving the county’s financial stability, that would be considered notable under normal circumstances, let alone during a worldwide pandemic.
“He came in and took the bull by the horns,” said County Attorney Al Hadeed. “He did a brief but thorough analysis of a number of topics we were navigating, and immediately began carving out a plan to systematically address them.”
Topping the list of achievements was the turn-around of one of the most critical issues facing Flagler County, a financial picture that raised the concerns of stakeholders, including banks and other debt-rating agencies.
“When Mr. Cameron arrived, the County barely had enough fund balance to cover even one month of operations,” Financial Services Director John Brower said. “Through his consistent messaging and decision-making including debt payoff, refinancing, budget tightening, and good old fashion fiscal restraint, the county has righted its fiscal ship without jeopardizing our needed fund balance and reserve levels. The county’s liquidity and solvency is the best it’s been in a very long time.”
Next on the list are a number of items related to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office operations centers – past, present, and future.
The future now looks bright, with the December 2020 groundbreaking of a 51,615 square foot building on 8.41 acres within the Government Services Complex – with future expansion capabilities for an additional 30,000 square feet. “I am grateful for the Board of County Commissioners, County Administrator (Jerry) Cameron and the design and construction team for working together to make this day possible,” Sheriff Rick Staly said at the time.
Five months later, May 2021, the Sheriff’s Office – along with the county and the City of Palm Coast – celebrated the opening of the first permanent District 2 office in the city’s 40 years. “County staff took a bank building that had about 3,000 square feet of interior space with a 1,300 sq. ft. drive-through and seamlessly blended it into 4,263 square feet of functional space for Palm Coast District Office for the FCSO,” Cameron said before the event.
The current pathway for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office had a less than idyllic start.
The former Sheriff’s Office headquarters, which opened in the Fall of 2015 and was vacated in June 2018 after a number of FCSO staff members became ill, was sold in July 2020. The former Sears building – also purchased under the previous administration – had been temporarily earmarked for the District 2 office, but water intrusion and mold was found in it in May 2019 and it was subsequently sold in April 2020.
Many other accomplishments were achieved in 2020 despite the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, including the following:
· Completed construction and opened the long anticipated Bay Drive Park, which is ADA accessible
· Transferred to the Public Safety 800 MHz Radio System
· Created a partnership with Church on the Rock to provide a cold-weather shelter, and developed bus routes to ensure those in need can get to and from
· Expanded the parking lot at the Government Services Building to ease voter congestion
· Closed on the sale of county-owned utilities to the Florida Governmental Utility Authority (FGUA)
Accomplishments continued into 2021:
· Migration of the 9-1-1 system to the nationwide NextGen system was completed
· UGov Flagler citizens’ reporting application was launched
· Completed dispersal of $10 million in federal CARES money into the hands of residents and local businesses
· Participated in first tri-county meeting with Putnam and St. Johns counties
· Pressure from a county-filed public nuisance lawsuit lead to the sale of the Old Dixie Motel
Finally, and to the heart of what makes Cameron tick, he started the Flagler County Leadership Academy to develop upper level staff. The inaugural class of 16 county, Sheriff’s Office, and Tax Collector’s Office staff graduated in 2020. The second class of 18 – also including School Board staff members – graduated Monday, June 21.
The Flagler County Leadership Academy was honored last month with a National Association of Counties (NACo) 2021 Achievement Award in the category of County Administration and Management.
Cameron and Dr. Joe Saviak – an independent consultant who previously taught Public Administration at Flagler College – facilitated the program. The materials and methodology of the Academy are in line with graduate level-coursework, and the program is structured like those undertaken by Fortune 500 companies.
“We have a great staff making great strides for the betterment of our community,” Cameron said when the award was announced. “Our staff – at every level – is working diligently, creatively, to provide great services to the Flagler County community in a cost efficient manner.”
Heidi Petito will step into the role as interim County Administrator on July 2, 2021 serving as interim until September 30th when the Board of County Commissioners will decide whether to offer her the position or conduct a search for a new administrator.
Media Release: Flagler County. Julie Murphy MPIO
Featured Photo: Building a team requires trust, and the anti-gossip pledge was one of the first milestones students in the second Flagler County Leadership Academy completed, as displayed by Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron, who serves as one of the professors for the eight month course. Photo/Flalger News Weekly