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Neighborhood services job cut

The $96,510-a-year St. Petersburg position is eliminated; the mayor will share some of the duties.

By LEONORA LaPETER

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 9, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- City neighborhood services administrator Michael Dove is gone and so is his job.

Mayor David Fischer announced that Dove's $96,510 job in charge of neighborhood partnerships, housing services and the code enforcement department has been eliminated. The mayor will supervise the neighborhood partnership department directly, while economic development administrator Rick Mussett will handle housing and codes.

Fischer said the move would give his neighborhood revitalization effort better focus.

"In talking to Mike in the exit interview, he felt the neighborhood department could start to lose somewhat of its focus when the department got too big," Fischer said. "We wanted to re-energize where we started from. I think it's more of a re-emphasis on neighborhoods."

Fischer said he would use Dove's salary to create other positions, but he had not decided where to use the money.

Dove assumed the neighborhood coordinator position in 1993, leading efforts to dot the city with neighborhood associations that now number more than 100. In 1997, he took on the larger role of neighborhood services administrator.

Dove, whose last day was Friday, has taken a job as planning and development director in Catawba County, N.C., northwest of Charlotte.

Neighborhood groups worry that Dove's loss would give them lessattention. Dove could walk up to the mayor's office, knock on his door and deal with problems, said Jimmy Biggerstaff, president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations.

Biggerstaff said Dove's leadership of the code department, in particular, allowed coordination when it came to run-down neighborhoods. Dove supervised a total of 85 to 90 people when he left.

"Mike had a lot of people under him," Biggerstaff said. "He had quite a bit of say over what was going on. He was hands-on and could get things done, because everybody knew when Mike Dove called, it was the mayor calling basically."

Susan Ajoc, who reported to Dove as head of the Neighborhood Partnership department, will continue in the role she has held since 1997, supervising five neighborhood planners and one staff support person.

She said she doesn't see any changes in the way the department is run -- except that now she will report to the mayor.

"I think the mayor wanted to send a strong message that neighborhoods are still important to the administration, even though we've lost an administrator," Ajoc said.

City Council member Bea Griswold doesn't think the mayor's reorganization will give neighborhoods less attention. In fact, she wonders whether the mayor is buying time to consider its strengths and weaknesses.

"I think he finds it important and the people who work in it are completely capable of continuing it," Griswold said. "I think we need to have a conversation with the mayor to find out what his motives are for all of this, but it's his ball of wax. There's no doubt about that."

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