Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Skip to main content

News, Opinion, Santa Rosa County, City of Miton, News

IN OUR OPINION: Bringing Jorgenson back would be a mistake

| Staff Reporters
As soon as Milton City Councilman Jeff Snow learned that City Manager Scott Collins had submitted a letter of resignation, he quickly recommended a short-term fix: Appoint retired former City Manager Randy Jorgenson to fill the gap until the council can find a suitable replacement. Unfortunately, Snow’s knee-jerk reaction was the wrong move in the wrong direction at the wrong time for the wrong person.
Randy Jorgenson, right, addresses the Milton City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at what was his last meeting as city manager. Also pictured are Melissa Short and City Attorney Alex Andrade.

With all due respect to Jorgenson, Collins identified in five months critical challenges facing the city that Jorgenson – in five years as city manager – at best didn’t recognize, at least didn’t report, and at worst helped create.

What have we learned since Jorgenson retired in September? The state is preparing to conduct a comprehensive audit of the city’s operations. The critically important wastewater treatment plant project the city has known about since at least 2009 is woefully behind schedule and will require the city to borrow $72 million to have any hope of meeting the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Dec. 31, 2025, deadline for removing treated effluent from the Blackwater River. The Warren Averett accounting firm, which has conducted the city’s annual audits for years, has contacted members of the city council asking if they’re aware of instances of fraud by anyone associated with the city.

Many city functions that should be confidential are conducted in open-air cubicles in shared workspace in an overcrowded city hall. The city’s policies for compensating its employees have resulted in personnel expenses comprising 125 percent of the city’s TOTAL general fund revenues (creating the necessity to borrow millions of dollars from enterprise funds and short-change the wastewater treatment project).

Jorgenson said before retiring that he “welcomed” what then was a proposed legislative audit. We wonder if he feels the same way now.

Snow always has supported Jorgenson, a former city planner and planning director. Snow led the council to fire former City Manager Brian Watkins in 2018 and to appoint Jorgenson interim city manager. A talent search identified a well-qualified candidate but – with Jorgenson leading negotiations – that candidate withdrew from consideration and Snow convinced the council to promote Jorgenson.

We hope Snow and the council will consider the revelations of the past few months before taking the easy step of reappointing a familiar face. In our opinion, the council would be wiser to hire someone of unquestionable integrity, someone who had no involvement in the city’s past mismanagement, and someone with no incentive to stall, block or in any way impede the legislative audit.

Milton Police Chief Tony Tindell, we believe, is such a person. He was the council’s choice for interim city manager before Collins began his duties in October. If his law enforcement duties prevent him from being able to commit to the position, the council should seek help from the Florida City & County Management Association.

Milton’s dysfunctional city government precedes Jorgenson’s tenure as city manager and Snow’s as a councilmember. There are many characters who share responsibility for the city’s reputation as one of the state’s biggest dumpster fires.

The city council has a choice to make Tuesday: appoint Jorgenson and throw more fuel into the flames or demonstrate a commitment to progress by bringing in fresh eyes, fresh ideas, and fresh energy to continue the work Collins started.

error: Content is protected !!