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Dade City commissioners pick Billy Poe, 31, to fill city manager post.
By Helen Anne Travis, Times Staff Writer
Published February 22, 2008
DADE CITY - Remember your first big break?
Billy Poe's came about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The mayor called and said Dade City commissioners had selected Poe as the city manager.
"I was just in shock. I really didn't know what to think," Poe said Thursday.
A few weeks earlier, Poe, 31, had made a "gutsy" move and put his name in for the position. He knew other candidates with more experience had applied. The worst commissioners could do was tell him no.
But Poe's enthusiasm, energy and local connections weighed more for commissioners than a resume fat with city management experience.
"I feel like Billy has the potential to be a great leader for Dade City. I was willing to give him that chance," said Commissioner Steve Van Gorden, whose first big break was landing an assistant principal position at age 24.
Poe served as the Zephyrhills assistant planner for five years. He started as an intern while he pursued his master's of business administration from Saint Leo University, and was eventually hired full-time.
Zephyrhills City Manager Steve Spina called on Poe for assistance with contract negotiations and economic development projects - duties beyond the role of an assistant planner.
"He's done very well," Spina said. "He's a quick learner."
Spina's recommendation helped Poe land the job.
Zephyrhills officials hired Spina as the city planner in 1987, even though his background was in journalism. In 1993, Spina applied for a city manager position in Dade City. He was a finalist, but didn't get the gig. Three years later, he became the Zephyrhills city manager and pursued grants for the city, saw it through its biggest growth spurt and stuck around.
"Although we were pleased with our city manager choice in 1993, I think a lot of us felt, wow, we should have looked a little more seriously at Steve," said Dade City Commissioner Scott Black, who was elected to the commission at 25 - his first break.
Dade City commissioners said they were glad Poe could call on Spina for guidance.
Poe imagines his first few weeks on the job will be a "fact-finding month." He wants to meet with commissioners and department heads, find out what works and what doesn't.
"I want to really sit down and learn the culture," he said.
But pretty soon, some elements of that culture may change. In a few months, voters will decide who fills three seats on the commission. Three new commissioners - ones who didn't hire him - could come on board, but this doesn't shake Poe.
"It's nothing that I can control," he said. "That's part of the job."
Also part of the job is balancing a lean budget. Poe said he doesn't want to put more burden on taxpayers. He wants to explore financial partnerships with other entities, like the county, nearby cities and the School Board. He also wants to see whether increasing one-time fees, like those associated with permits, could add up as revenue for the city.
Poe and his wife, Kim, grew up in Zephyrhills. The couple and their three children live there now. Poe said he won't move to Dade City: It's only a 7-mile commute from his front door to the City Hall parking lot.
The Poes are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary on a cruise to Cozumel. They left less than 24 hours after Poe found out about his new job.
He doesn't know when he starts. It could be anywhere from two weeks to a month, he said.
He and commissioners still have to negotiate his salary and benefits package, too.
Dade City commissioners hired Poe on their fourth attempt to find a new city manager since Harold Sample left the position in June 2007.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 521-6518.
William "Billy" Poe Jr.
Education: Master's of business administration, Saint Leo University; bachelor of science in sports management, University of Tampa
Current job: Assistant planner, city of Zephyrhills, since 2002.
You might not know: Poe taught special and physical education at Woodland Elementary in Zephyrhills. He was also a lifeguard and personal fitness consultant at the East Pasco YMCA.
[Last modified February 21, 2008, 22:33:12]