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Deputies will have broad authority, Baker says

By BRYAN GILMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Though one of the perks of being elected strong mayor is the right to fire top managers at will, Rick Baker is leaving his pad of pink slips alone, at least for now.

Baker's "reorganization" of city government Tuesday left three veteran managers with new titles, with one of those returning after briefly leaving the city. And the lines of reporting on the city organizational chart have been moved around.

But city government will stay about the same as when David Fischer's name was at the top of the chart before last month's election.

"I believe every day is an opportunity to move this city forward, so I am in the process of assembling a team of familiar and highly capable talent to allow us to hit the ground running," Baker wrote in a memo to the City Council and city staffers.

It's the kind of stay-the-course approach Baker advertised on the campaign trail. In contrast to Kathleen Ford, who saw a city administration rife with incompetence and that moved too slowly, Baker declared, "We have a great city," on the campaign trail at every opportunity and promised to build on success.

Though the faces of managers will change little, Baker says things will be different in his City Hall.

Baker says his three "deputy mayor" positions are more than fancy titles for department heads; they emphasize that he intends to take the reins firmly as strong mayor. The executives will report directly to him and have broad authority to work on his top goals.

"The reshaping of the government reflects many of the concerns we had during the campaign," Baker said. Two in particular are letting neighborhood leaders work closely with the government and fighting the poverty in neighborhoods where civil unrest erupted in 1996.

Mike Dove will report directly to Baker and work with neighborhood leaders to improve residential areas, just as he once did for Fischer.

Goliath Davis III, reporting directly to the mayor, will focus on economic development in what Fischer called the "Challenge" area. That was a task that moved slowly and had to compete for attention with other economic development projects under Rick Mussett's economic development administration when Fischer was mayor.

Thursday, Baker called the list of senior administrators, full of familiar names such as Mussett (now to be called "city development administrator"), Leisure Services Administrator Lee Metzger and Public Works Administrator George Webb, "my Cabinet and the senior management of the city."

"I have been very impressed with my interactions with the city staff," Baker said.

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