Initially, we called new Lake Worth city manager Susan Stanton to ask about rumors -- reported on LakeWorthMedia.com -- that a city engineer named Andres Reyes was forced to resign for insubordination after he tried to save the city $50,000 by doing work in-house rather than pay a contractor. Stanton said that Reyes is actually still on staff with the city and that the rumor highlighted the problems with independent blogs. "I never confuse blogs with news," she said breezily.
With Stanton contending that the Reyes incident was a non-issue, we asked how her new job was going -- a subject she had plenty to say about.
One of her first priorities, she said, would be "trying to understand the anger in this community. I don't have a panic switch like I did in my office in Largo, but I've had four people come into my office with -- you know the look -- anger, and contempt and rage, where you go, 'I need to get a police officer in here!'" Citizens, she said, have been mad about code enforcement, police issues, and "things that happened ten years ago! Two people I thought were going to have massive strokes!"
The encounters reminded Stanton of a recent evening when she ate something bad and spent the evening vomiting on the floor of IHOP. "I was sitting there on the floor thinking about work, and it was like, there's something toxic in the body. It's gotta come up." She envisioned hosting a listening forum where citizens can meet her and air their gripes: "Some of the anger people feel has got to be expelled."
So far, Stanton is getting used to playing city manager in a place where "the police and fire departments have been puffed away." (Lake Worth has contracted to have the county deliver those services.) "Most cities would die before they would give up those two functions!" Stanton said. "I thought it was weird, not a good decision, but that's OK, it's been done." Back in her former city of Largo, Florida, Stanton was accustomed to having a police radio in her personal vehicle and police software on her computer so that she could have a real-time handle on crime and emergencies. Now, she lamented, she'll only get reports two times a year. She'll still oversee about 400 people in six departments, such as leisure services and human resources.
Stanton said she has already ventured down to the newly-opened pier at Lake Worth Beach and saw "people with fishing poles, dropping their strings" into the water. "I'd rather get a scuba tank and a spear gun and be done with it in 20 minutes," she said. "It seems so pedestrian doing it [the first] way."
Lastly, the famously transgendered Stanton said most citizens have given her a warm welcome "with the exception of the nail shop. It wasn't what they said -- it's what they didn't say. Very cold, like 'We don't want you here.' Well, by the time you get your feet and nails done, it's $60! So I thought, if you don't need the money, I'm gone. So I left and they're happy and I'm happy. Everybody's happy."