Wanted: A Great Manager Who Can Lead

“Managers watch over our numbers, our time and our results. Leaders watch over us.” Simon Sinek

 

Delray Beach finds itself in the market for a city manager these days.

Again.

They may not have to look too far, as City Commissioner Ryan Boylston has suggested lifting the “acting” tag in front of Neal DeJesus’ name and giving him the permanent position.

We may see where that idea goes this week. Stay tuned.

But this blog isn’t about that idea and it’s not about the continuing instability at City Hall although that should concern everyone who cares about Delray Beach. Instability is costly; in many many ways.

But rather than dig into that subject, this post is about what we should be looking for in our next City Manager. Get that piece right and a lot of other pieces fall into place.

First, let’s just outline some givens: having a stand out city manager in a council manager system is critical.

The CM is the government equivalent of a CEO and sets the tone for the entire organization.

A good CM can attract and motivate talented people. And once you get the people equation right anything is possible.

I think the next city manager will need to succeed in three distinct worlds: the political, the external and the internal.

Let’s look at all three:

Ideally, you want an apolitical City Manager who will leave the policy making to the elected officials, as the charter mandates. The job is to implement commission policy, goals and community visions and to do so efficiently and cost effectively.

While this may seem basic, in the real world it can be complicated. Delray is a complicated city and the job of City Manager is a hard one.

While policy makers are responsible for coming up with coherent and innovative policy and goals, the manager does have a role as a coordinator of that policy and to encourage the development of goals and visions.

A neighboring community’s city manager once told me this.

“Look at me as your driver. You tell me where you want to go and give me the resources to get there. If I don’t think I have enough gas, I will tell you before we embark on the trip. Once you give me the destination, hop in the back.  My job is to get you there, on time and within budget. If I crash, run out of gas, drive erratically and get tickets along the way get a new driver. But please let me drive.”

I thought that was a pretty good explanation.

To navigate effectively in the political arena, it’s incumbent on the manager to develop relationships with all elected officials while also understanding the myriad of constituencies in Delray: business community, neighborhoods etc.

City Managers who play favorites, don’t communicate equality with all of their bosses and spend too much time with politicos and gadflies are at risk and won’t survive.

The best defense against politics is performance. Do the job. Do it well and stay in your lane. That’s good advice for both elected officials and senior staff.

As for the external, I think good city managers are accessible (with limits because if you scratch every itch the big stuff doesn’t get done), responsive to citizens and have an ability to build and empower a good team that will make him or her look good.

We leaves us with the internal world.

A great city manager will have both formidable managerial skills and solid leadership credentials. They will be able to hire well, develop talent once they are on board and motivate and inspire. They are team builders who understand the importance of accountability but who score well in the areas of communication and emotional intelligence.

It’s a tough, tough job and this isn’t the easiest town in which to succeed as we have seen. But it’s important that we get someone who can succeed. It’s important that we find and support someone who can be a great CEO.

Of course, nobody has all the skills necessary to succeed. But the great ones know what they don’t know and surround themselves with a capable team.

It’s difficult but it can be done.

Complacency Is A Killer

I think we’re at risk of losing our edge as a nation.

And that worries me. It worries me a lot.

Every day I read and hear about the dysfunction in our nation’s capital.

The hyper-partisanship.

The inability to seize opportunities, solve problems or to get things done.

The endless bickering and sniping at each other.

Climate change is real, but there’s a large swath of people who just won’t accept the science. So we nibble around the edges, endure catastrophic and costly weather “events” and seem immune to bad news such as a new report that says up to 1 million species of animals and plants are in danger of mass extinction. That’s not a typo…one million species the biggest “event” since the dinosaurs went bye bye.

And the list goes on.

Time Magazine reports that Russia is palling around with the world’s despots exporting trouble and trying desperately to hack into every institution the West values.

China is using its money to buy influence by financing infrastructure projects in other countries while working feverishly to take the lead in key emerging areas such as Artificial Intelligence and 5G wireless.

Meanwhile, our infrastructure is falling apart, we don’t have enough housing, our public schools struggle, we suffer from widespread opioid abuse and we can’t even pass a disaster relief bill to help people in the flood prone Midwest, wildfire scarred Northern California and hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. The beat goes on, but you get the picture.

Sure, every other nation on Earth has its fair share of maladies but this is more about our inability to respond and collaborate than it is about the issues themselves. Truth is, if you are able to respond, work through problems and find common ground, you can solve just about anything or at least make things better.

But I see our nation’s leaders more focused on sticking it to each other than buckling down and working to create a better world for future generations. By the way, that’s what leaders do, focus on leaving a better world. So if you are failing the present and letting down the future you are not leading.  You are laying an egg.

But this is a hyperlocal blog, focused on our community so how does this all relate?
Well, glad you asked.

Boca and Delray are two very successful communities—not trouble free, not perfect, not without challenges and real issues, but fairly successful nonetheless. But like America, if we rest on our laurels, we will be passed by. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday for sure.

The core question then is how to do we survive our success?
Atlantic Avenue is so popular that it’s literally bursting at the seams.

Now that’s a better problem to have than tumbleweeds on your Main Street, but it is an issue.

If I was still a policymaker (and thank goodness I’m retired) I would be worried about high rents on Atlantic fueled by sky high acquisition prices forcing establishments to sling high margin drinks to make ends meet. This leads to a Bourbon Street feel that some people like and others don’t care for.

Now I remain a fan of downtown Delray and take pride in our success, but I’d be concerned about those trends, competition from nearby cities and the need to spread the crowds to other parts of our downtown and make sure that the offerings appeal to a wider demographic.

I know far less about Boca, but I spend a lot of time in that city and I see traffic problems caused by sprawl and hear a lot of angst about the future.

The bottom line is that cities– and nations– no matter how successful can never rest.

Complacency is a killer.

A smug attitude will set you up to be knocked off your pedestal. You have to wake up a little scared every morning…especially when things are going well.

For so long, America led the world and we still do, but our future hegemony is not guaranteed. And the nitwits in D.C. and cable news pundits should be putting America before party loyalty…and that’s directed at both the left and the right.

Back here at home, we can’t assume that Delray will always be the reigning “hot spot” or that Boca will always be “all that” as they say.

Cities need constant renewal. They need vision. They need leadership and competent management and an active, engaged and dedicated citizenry.

No shortcuts.

And no exceptions.

 

 

 

 

Things We Loved in April

A Delray institution celebrates a landmark birthday.

Things we Loved in April

A Milagro Milestone & A Proper Affair
April was a big month for Delray’s Milagro Center.
The non-profit celebrated its “Gala of Light” at the Loft at Congress and also marked the opening of its new Middle School program at the Virginia and Harvey Kimmel Milagro Junior Teen Center.
The opening means that the Milagro has three distinct centers serving the needs of our children from Kindergarten through high school.
The Kimmel’s have been a true blessing to Delray supporting many key nonprofits including the Delray Beach Public Library and Old School Square.

Speaking of great non profits, the Achievement Center for Children & Families is marking it’s 50th anniversary this year.
It’s Proper Affair fundraiser honored two of our favorite leaders: Karen Granger of 4 Kids and leadership consultant Suzanne Spencer who did stellar work with Delray’s Drug Task Force before departing to work with clients, our schools and the chamber’s leadership program.
Both are deserving honorees and fabulous leaders.

Recommended
We tried the Vino Wine Bar for the first time this month. This charming Boca Raton restaurant offers great Italian food in an intimate setting. Also a highlight: a wonderful and vast wine list and awesome food.

Mr. Plum Was A Local Legend
On a sad note, Delray lost a wonderful friend with the recent passing of Bill Plum at age 90.
It’s hard to overstate Bill’s contributions to the community.
Owner of Plum’s Pharmacy, founder and manager of the Delray Beach Club, President of Carney Bank, owner of Plum Realty, developer of the Plum Building and a prodigious fundraiser for Bethesda Hospital.
He also co-founded the Drug Abuse Foundation and was active in the Delray St. Patrick’s Day Parade and The Haven. And the list goes on.
He was a wonderful man. Who will be fondly remembered by all who were fortunate to cross his path.

A Theatrical Gem

We have become big fans of FAU’s Theatre Lab, a small intimate space where new plays come to life.
Under the direction of the talented Matt Stabile, local audiences get treated to cutting edge theater works.
We’ve  had a chance to see two plays by Jennifer Lane, an up and coming playwright who is bound for big things.
In April, we saw Lane’s  “Harlowe” an at times funny but mostly intense family drama.
It was a powerful performance and we highly recommend that you check out this wonderful venue if you enjoy thought provoking production. Another great treasure in our backyard.

Big Time
Nice to see State Attorney Dave Aronberg on Morning Joe.
Mr. Aronberg was opining on the college admissions scandal and particularly the questionable decisions by actress Lori Loughlin who at the time had not taken a deal by pleading guilty. (Disclosure: I went to high school with Ms. Loughlin).
Aronberg has gotten a lot of national press lately as a result of the situation involving Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Jupiter Day Spa.

Madison’s
Madison’s restaurant off of Glades Road is a terrific place. Love the bar, a great happy hour menu, amazing food and the wait staff is always great. Highly recommend.

Celebrating a Landmark
Delray’s Fifth Avenue Grill is celebrating its 30th anniversary in May.
That’s a lot of years in a tough business and a competitive landscape.
We recently dropped by for lunch and loved the new menu. Lots of great choices and always a bunch of specials. Now under new management with a new chef too.
(Disclosure: my company has an ownership stake).

The Mighty Max Delivers
The Max Weinberg’s Jukebox show at the Crest Theatre was in a word: amazing.
Two hours of unadulterated fun and great music from a rock and roll hall of famer and his terrific band.
Max, a proud Delray resident, talked up how much he loved playing the Crest and also gave some shout outs to local favorites Da Da and Doc’s.
If you have a chance to see the Jukebox don’t miss it. It’s a great night of music courtesy of an E Street legend.
Also kudos to promoter Rusty Young and his Music Works for bringing all sorts of great acts to the Crest—John Sebastian, Karla Bonoff, Stephen Bishop etc.

Healthy Options
We discovered the Bee Hive restaurant in Boca last month. Healthy food, reasonably priced and very generous portions. A welcome addition to the fast casual scene.

Motivation at La Cigale
We had a chance to have dinner at La Cigale with performance coach and best selling author Dr. Kevin Elko.
Dr. Elko has worked with 7 national college football champions and several NFL teams including the Cowboys, Eagles, Steelers and Packers. He’s about winning in business, sports and life by connecting, eliminating distractions and being present.
It’s a good message. Check out his website. https://www.drelko.com/

Pompano Rising
Sometimes we go a little afield to  try new things. So we traveled to Pompano to experience Mora Grill, a Lebanese restaurant.
It was outstanding. Lively (lots of belly dancing), really good food and just plain fun. Also very reasonably priced.
We then wandered down the recently improved beach promenade and ended up at the magnificent Beachhouse which is a really vibrant hot spot directly on the ocean. Keep an eye on Pompano.

Attracting VC attention
Congratulations to our friends at Bidtellect for ranking 13th on the South Florida Business Journal’s list of top 25 venture capital deals for the past four quarters ending March 31.
The Delray based paid content distribution platform raised $8.68 million.
Keep an eye on this company. It’s going to be big.
Boca’s Greenlane, a vape company, landed in  third place landing a whopping $48.2 million.
Christine’s is Magnificent
Kudos to Lynn University’s newest culinary gem: Christine’s.
Located on the second floor of the beautiful University Center, Christine’s offers great food with a beautiful view of the campus. A wonderful addition.

Devour
We visited Devour Brewery in Boynton Beach and sampled several excellent beers. My favorite: the Pineapple Hefe.
Definitely worth your time to visit and sample.

The Power of Vulnerability
If your not willing to build a vulnerable culture you can’t lead or innovate.
That’s was one of many messages/gems in the new Brene’ Brown Netflix special. “Call to Courage” is a great way to spend 75 minutes. So step away from the endless division on cable TV “news” and learn from a thought leader who teaches us about courage and vulnerability and how you can’t have one without the other.

Taking a Free Ride
Beatles on the Beach…Edgar Winter in Delray. How cool is that? Nuff said.

Long Awaited
We finally visited Louie Bossi in Boca. It was very good.
Wonderful food, excellent service and Nonna’s cheesecake is to die for.

Thanks & Happy Retirement

Congratulations and a heartfelt thanks to Phil Dorfman who retired after 30 years with the Delray Police Department.
I had a chance to ride with Phil several times over the years. We saw some things..Delray has come along way thanks in large part to the efforts of officers like Phil. We wish him well in his retirement.

From City Hall To The White House

A good farm system…

Two mayors are running for president and if any of them makes it,  they will become a rarity: only Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge went from City Hall to the White House.
The two mayors are Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana and Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey.

If it’s possible, let’s put partisanship aside for a moment or two.
Can we do that?
Good.

Now let’s focus on whether being a mayor of a city qualifies someone for the most powerful position in the world.
The case against:
—it’s a big leap from City Hall to the Oval Office. One position deals with potholes and variances, the other deals with national security and the global economy.

—mayors move policy through their city council’s, presidents have to deal with 535 members of the House and Senate.

On the local level, if you have a good idea on Tuesday night and a few commissioners agree with you things start to move on Wednesday morning. In Washington, it takes an act of Congress to get action from Congress. Ideas may not even resemble what you proposed by the time it makes its way through committees and to the floor in both the House and the Senate. It’s a wonder anything gets done. Come to think of it, not much does.

Good mayors are used to getting things done.
The case for:
–Good mayors work on more than potholes, they are involved in economic development, education, civic engagement, urban planning, transportation and the health and safety of their communities.
They tend to come with a bias toward action and tend to look at issues practically and in a fact-based manner. They are not partisan. That’s a good thing.
–Most mayors develop a thick skin.
That will come in handy on the national stage. We are, after all, a nation of critics.
Mayors understand this because they can’t go anywhere without facing criticism—not the grocery, gas station, to their favorite social media hangout or to dinner without running into someone who seems to live for the chance to insult, berate or complain to you.
Truth is, most people are nice and very sweet. And that’s what makes being a mayor worth it. But if you are in the arena (and mayors are) you will suffer your fair share of slings and arrows–mostly from the cheap seats, i.e. people who don’t have ideas or contribute.

Of course, as President, the Secret Service won’t let you mingle too much with the people. Which is sad but understandable. Mayors can’t hide, but neither can presidents.

Now I’m of the belief that partisan politics is for the birds.

Nothing gets done which is anathema to good mayors who always have a bias for action and decision making.
So I’m thinking that the idea of a mayor as POTUS is not such a bad concept.

Good mayors know how to promote their cities, grow their economies, bring people together, solve problems and serve the needs of constituents. Those are skills that translate.

We’ve had a haberdasher (Truman), a slew of lawyers (I will resist the lawyer jokes), a couple of generals, a community organizer and a reality TV star.
I’ll take my chances on a mayor.

But only a good one.

Culture & Vision

Vision and culture move the needle…

 

If you boil it down, Mayors and City Commissioners are responsible for two big things and a lot of little things.
This blog will focus on the two big things.
They are:
Vision and culture.

Those words deserve to be bold because it all flows from those two words.
Everything else—budgets, development, bidding, contracts— suffers if you don’t have a vision and you don’t have a positive culture.

A community’s vision should drive its budget. After all, how do you know where to make investments if you don’t have a vision for your city?

How do you shape development if you don’t know where you want to take your city?

I happen to believe that the best visions are citizen driven, created by a large cross section of stakeholders and implemented by elected officials and city staff.
But it’s the elected officials responsibility to see to it that there is a vision and that the vision is being followed. In other words, elected officials are stewards of their community’s dreams and aspirations.

Frankly, I don’t know how you lead without a vision.

Goals and visions drive everything—where you spend money, what projects you approve, where you allocate time and resources. Having a compelling vision is the best economic development tool imaginable. If you’re serious about making it happen the private investment you need to transform your community will come. Yes it will. You just have to believe and relentlessly focus and implement a compelling vision. (Execution is a key; visions left to gather dust on a shelf are to be avoided at all costs).

As for culture, in this case I don’t mean arts and music (which are also important) I’m referring to the atmosphere in your city.

Culture is the air that we breathe—is it positive, enthusiastic, hopeful, crackling with energy and enthusiasm? Or is it negative, nasty, toxic, untrusting and treacherous?

Is the mood in your city exciting or is it negative or milquetoast? Because while milquetoast may be better than nasty it’s still not good and it’s not going to move the needle in your community.

So when we look at our local leaders, or our state and national leaders for that matter, we ought not settle. We should not compromise. It’s too damn important.

Enlightened leaders change places.

They create opportunities, they change neighborhoods for the better, fix problems, heal rifts, seize the day and meet challenges. We need them.

But we play a role too.
We need to set a high bar.

We need to participate.

We need to vote, state our opinions, talk to our neighbors and help to shape the vision. We also need to hold elected leaders accountable.
We need to insist that they work toward creating and standing for a good culture and a kind community. Nothing else works.

Wrestling With Marie Kondo

Two of my favorite baseball players Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez graced the cover of this vintage Newsday special section. I’m keeping it!

We’ve been doing a lot of spring cleaning these days.

Check that, Diane and my niece have been knee deep in the garage and I get to come home and decide what parts of my past I want to keep and what to throw out or donate. I have to admit it has been difficult for me to part with mementos from the past.

I don’t know if you’ve caught any of the Marie Kondo phenomenon but the organizational guru who challenges people to throw things out if they don’t “spark joy” wouldn’t be my top choice for a dinner party at my house. Truth is, all of my stuff sparks joy—it’s just that there’s so darn much of it.

There are three main causes driving my collection: I’m sentimental, I’ve spent two decades plus as a journalist and I did 7 years in local politics.

That character trait and those two endeavors have generated an overwhelming amount of mementos: clips of articles I’ve written and a slew of plaques, proclamations, letters and ‘do dads’ from my civic work.

For better or for worse, they represent my life’s work—or at least a great deal of it. I’m still out here writing my own story.

So all of it means something to me. The newspaper and magazine stories I wrote, the letters from people who liked something the commission did (we had plenty of critical letters too and I kept some as well) and of course the souvenirs from the places we visited. So while I understand that material possessions pale in comparison to what really matters, these artifacts spark memories and yes Ms. Kondo a certain amount of joy.

But my argument to keep this stuff falls apart if you ask a few basic questions such as: Who is going to want or care about these things when I pass? And short of expiring, how are we going to store/move/organize this stuff should we decide to move or downsize?

Of course, I don’t want to answer any of those questions. But my better half is posing them and it’s hard to put off answering the woman who was brave enough to wade into my vast archives. Plus, she’s really cute and very smart and totally logical. I am simply no match for Diane.

So every night, I come home and wade through another pile.
It’s been an interesting ride…newspapers that take me back to the 80s and 90s, articles that reintroduce me to newsmakers from back in the day, magazine columns penned for Atlantic Ave magazine, old photos, campaign literature from landmark races, vintage Rolling Stone magazines,  a stray Playboy or two (read for the articles of course) and a really bad fake ID that I remember paying $20 for in Times Square so I would be old enough to buy a beer in downtown Port Jefferson—life was sure simpler then.

So here’s what we’ve decided and I think Diane is mostly on board although I’m sure she’d like to cart it all away.

I’m keeping some stuff.

I’m getting rid of some stuff.

I’m donating some stuff.

I’m looking at all of it and reminiscing.

These are my takeaways…

Memories are precious.

Life goes fast.

But you sure rack up a lot of miles and accumulate a lot of stuff.

Most likely, my kids and hopefully my future grandkids, won’t be interested.

 

And hopefully, there won’t be time to sit back at the end of it all and look back. Why?

Because if all goes well, I’ll be busy making new memories up until the very end. In other words, I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to sit in that rocking chair.

As my friend from across the miles and the years texted me this week—“Life’s about the moments.”

Indeed.

You have got to keep making them.

 

Old Friends

Scott, Ben and yours truly.

My old friend, I apologize

For the years that have passed

Since the last time you and I

Dusted off those memories

The running and the races

The people and the places

There was always somewhere else I had to be

And time gets thin, my old friend

Don’t know why…Tim McGraw, My Old Friend

 

There’s something comforting about old friends.

Something so easy that within moments of seeing them you pick up where you left off regardless of the time and the miles, the running and the races, the people and the places.

My childhood friend Ben was in town last week, passing through on his way to see his father in Port St. Lucie. So I rang up Scott–another old friend—and we found a cozy bar in Boca to reconnect. It took about 30 seconds and we were lost in laughs and good conversation.

We will all be 55 this year.

Ben and Scott go back to the third grade. I met Ben in junior high and I’ve known Scott since I was 8 or 9.

That’s a long, long time.

We’ve covered a lot of miles in life—a lot together (school, first loves, neighborhoods, first cars, road trips, youthful adventures) and a whole lot apart.

Frankly, the last thirty years were a blur for all of us.

Marriage, kids, careers, businesses, travel—deadlines and commitments as Bob Seger sings —what to leave in, what to leave out.

And then one day you’re 54 and you walk into a bar to meet two of the best friends you’ve ever had or ever will have and time melts away instantly.

Ben still has his boyish face and Scott still has the sense of a humor of a 12 year-old so the years seem to dissolve as if by magic.

We didn’t talk about the glory days (oh, maybe a little) but we do talk easily about our lives today and our hopes for the future. There’s always a lot to catch up on because we don’t see each other like we used to. We used to spend every single day together, but those days are long past.

Still,  there may be even more to talk about now because when we ran together as kids I knew everything about these guys—where they had travelled, what they were thinking (girls, cars, sports, music that was pretty much it) and what was happening in school.

But these days, they are full of mystery to me. They’ve been lots of places, seen lots of things and when we talk I hang on every word because it’s fresh, it’s interesting and I really, really care for these guys.

I didn’t have brothers growing up —so they are it. Something beyond friends.

I know that regardless of where life takes us—Park City, Utah, Red Bank, N.J. Raleigh, Asheville, Coral Springs or to Mr. W’s house in Port St. Lucie—there will always be a reunion. If life were a cruise with various ports of call, these guys and a few others would be my muster station. We will find a way to stay in touch and if emergencies strike we will surely be there for each other.

We can talk in a comfortable shorthand of sorts, because when these guys talk about their parents and siblings or I talk about mine, I have a picture in my mind. I know all of these people.

Same with our other friends.

We are well aware that we have been given a gift—each other’s friendship. We appreciate it, we enjoy it and we are grateful for the laughs, the talks and the experiences that we did share.

I’ve made a lot of friends over the years. Lost a few too and that can rattle a guy because I certainly wasn’t used to that.

But these guys…well let’s just say I know that they will always be there.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

 

 

 

 

Boca Makes A SMART Hire

Pedro Moras

The City of Boca Raton recently hired Pedro Moras as its first ever “Innovation Strategist” and I think that’s worthy of applause.

According to the press release announcing the hire, Moras was hired to promote innovation and the use of technology within the community. Additionally, Moras will work to develop and implement SMART City initiatives and collaborate with City staff to explore innovation in city operations.

Now the cynics out there will say innovation and government should never be used in the same sentence and that the term Smart City is an oxymoron.

The cynics would be wrong. As they usually are.

Cities today have to innovate or risk irrelevance. They should strive to be “smart” not only in terms of technology but in all areas: sustainability, citizen engagement, public safety, parks design, transportation, land development and the list goes on.

It’s good to see Boca Raton make a statement with the hiring of an innovation strategist and it will be interesting to see where the city goes as a result.

Moras seems to have the background and chops to make a difference.

Prior to joining the city, Moras cofounded PetMio, a pet food-technology start-up that uses advanced artificial intelligence technology to create personalized pet nutrition products. He also served as Managing Partner at the Konnected Minds Group, a Miami based innovation consultancy. During his time in the corporate world, he was the founding member of the Transformational Innovation Group at Jarden Consumer Solution, a corporate new ventures group focused on identifying, developing and commercializing new product and business opportunities.

“Innovation is the purposeful application that improves our condition and community,” said Moras. “Through that application we can accomplish tremendous feats that improve the lives of our families and our community. It is because of innovation that we evolved so much as a society and I am excited to further expand innovative achievements in Boca Raton.”

Boca has an interesting innovation pedigree.

Boca Raton’s history dates back to pioneering farmers, there’s an interesting history relative to Mediterranean architecture and of course, the birth of IBM’s personal computer (PC) in 1967. Through the years, Boca Raton’s entrepreneurial culture has supported technology and innovation through economic development incentives that have led to the creation of facilities such as the Boca Raton Innovation Campus (BRIC). Boca Raton is also home to three universities that incorporate innovation into curriculums and the community through programs such as FAU Tech Runway.

“I think Boca Raton is in a unique position because the foundation of entrepreneurship and innovation already exists,” said Moras. “And that foundation is strong from an economic, social and environmental standpoint, compared to many cities across the country. I think a key to taking Boca Raton to the next level, is bringing together the brilliant minds in our schools, businesses, organizations and civic centers under a shared vision and giving them the tools to create our future.”

During his first year, Moras will work on creating Boca Raton’s innovation identity and define what being a SMART city means to the community. In addition, he plans to test and learn new concepts, programs and ideas in order to ultimately “create an ecosystem of innovation that is continuously creating breakthroughs in technology, education, the arts and more, and become an even more vibrant entrepreneurial community that attracts the best minds to come live here and work here.”

As a student of local government, I am anxious to see where this all leads. When I was on the Delray City Commission we strived to be “civic entrepreneurs” and encouraged staff to take risks and innovate in terms of policy and engagement. It made a difference, because we strived to make it  safe to experiment and to learn. That’s how progress happens.

In so many aspects of our society right now, innovation and technology is outpacing government’s ability to keep up. This makes government look slow, reactive and frankly a less exciting place to work if you are a young person looking for a career.

So Boca’s move is intriguing. Yes, it’s only one person, but it’s a bold start.

 

 

Finding A Way Forward

Economic gardening is more than just growing your own, it’s seeing that one generation looks out for the next.

There was a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times recently about Silicon Valley’s “old money” and how one generation of tech titans mentored and invested in the next generation.

University of Washington history professor Margaret O’Mara sketched out a family tree of sorts— tracing the influence the founders of Fairchild Semiconductor and Hewlett-Packard had on Apple, PayPal, Netscape and AOL and how those founders and their networks  helped today’s world beaters: Uber, Lyft and AirBnB.

Many early tech founders cashed out and went into venture capital  funding the next generation of entrepreneurs who grew the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
The article ends with a call to action. Tech titans– now facing backlash from consumers and regulators–should change their ways and use their windfalls to do something meaningful for the rest of the world.

It’s hard to disagree with that conclusion. But I came away with another thought.

Silicon Valley, was built on the vision and entrepreneurial energies of talented engineers who took risks, leveraged Stanford University’s amazing resources and built companies that achieved global dominance.

While many cities and regions have tried to replicate that success, none have quite been able to create anything to seriously rival the Valley’s dominance in technology.

But Professor O’Mara, in drawing a family tree of business leaders mentoring the next wave of entrepreneurial talent,  may offer a way forward for other communities.

Perhaps, communities can ask: “Who are today’s local business titans and what are they doing to ensure that the next generation of entrepreneurs will succeed?”

There are many examples of philanthropy, particularly in Boca Raton where the arts, health care and education have received enviable and much needed support.

Some of that philanthropy will have an economic impact—having a great hospital or a world class neuroscience institute is a wonderful calling card for our community. Likewise, building institutions such as FAU and Lynn University will undoubtedly yield a return on investment.

Having robust cultural institutions are also investments in economic development. Talent and forward looking companies seek quality of life and place when deciding where to locate.

But unless I’m missing it  (and please tell me if I am) I’m not seeing as much mentoring and venture investing as can be expected in an area as rich in talent and experience as Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

If it is happening, it needs to be publicized so that other talented and successful business and civic leaders can be encouraged to offer their wisdom and experience to the up and coming stars in our community.

There are notable exceptions. I know some generous angel investors and we have been blessed to see some successful entrepreneurs use their wealth to help others climb the ladder of success.

But I also know a whole lot of successful people who remain insulated in terms of the community.

Their success stories, the lessons they’ve learned and the mistakes they’ve made, would be invaluable to the next wave of people trying to build businesses and careers.

It seems Silicon Valley has figured it out—despite the much needed debate occurring on the harmful affects of some of the technology that has emerged from that hotbed of innovation.

There’s a model there to be looked at. We have an amazing amount of successful leaders in every field imaginable roaming our beaches, golf courses, waterways etc.

Can you imagine what would happen if a few hundred or even a few dozen decided to invest in some of the talent coming out of our high schools and colleges?

A Can’t Miss Rock N’ Roll Experience

Max and me…

Do you love music?
I mean really love music.

Do you wake up with songs in your head?

Do you sing in the shower?
Do you sing all the way to work listening to a great tune on the radio?

I do.

If you love classic rock—the best music ever made (along with Motown)—you have a unique chance to hear it played live by a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his amazing band right here in Delray Beach.

On April 11 at 8 p.m., Max Weinberg’s Jukebox will play the intimate Crest Theatre at Old School Square. You don’t want to miss the show.

Repeat: Do not miss this show.

We caught Max and his amazing band last year at the Arts Garage, where he played two sold out shows which left people breathless, singing and dancing to music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The “jukebox” format is unique. The theater is ringed with TV’s scrolling the names of hundreds of classic songs. Audience members choose from the list and Max Weinberg’s Jukebox plays a faithful version. It’s interactive, fun, high energy and showcases the talents of a great group of musicians including Max or “Mighty Max” as he’s known to legions of E Street Band fans around the world.

Max Weinberg joined Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1975 during the recording sessions for the iconic “Born to Run” album.

The rest as they say is history…but in Max’s case his legend transcends E Street to include a long stint leading the band on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, a seminal book about legendary drummers, acting roles, bandleader on the Tonight Show and several different musical bands including the Max Weinberg 7 and now the Jukebox which covers the landscape from The Beatles and the Stones to Bruce and beyond.

I got to know Max over a year ago. We met at the Arts Garage and later he joined my wife and I on a car tour through Delray where we talked about local history and future plans. Max is really into real estate and has become a student of Delray—soaking up visions and plans on the city’s websites. (P.S. we weren’t sure about the etiquette of driving him around: was it too goofy to play E Street Radio in the background? We decided to just provide narration with no background music.)

He’s also a good guy. And it’s really nice that he cares about his new home. It’s also nice when one of your heroes turns out to be a good person and someone you can talk to about ideas.

I’ve been a Springsteen fan (fanatic) since the age of 11, exactly when Max joined the band.

I still remember what it felt like to walk to the record store in Stony Brook N.Y. and buy the newest E Street Band record. The thrill of walking home and sliding the LP on my Technics turntable and hearing the first notes blast through Radio Shack speakers. Those were the days where you didn’t have instant streaming music, you had to wait for releases, listen to the radio, read rock magazines (Circus, Rolling Stone) and talk to the cool kids in home room to find out what was new and hot.

Back then, I never had enough money to buy all the albums I wanted, so I was judicious in my spending,  prioritizing my favorite musicians. Springsteen was one of the few artists that I just bought whatever they put out on day one. I knew the E Street Band  would deliver and they always did.

Darkness on the Edge of Town came out in ’78, The River in 1980, Nebraska during my senior year and the blockbuster Born in the USA in ’84 when I was in college in Oswego, N.Y.

We went to see the E Street Band at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse with a group of guys from my floor—it was the day before the “We are the World Sessions” and Bruce had a cold but the show was magnificent just like every show has been. And Max….well Max is just the best. Nobody works harder every night and nobody channels Springsteen quite like him. The music…it’s indescribable and touches so many emotions. It’s powerful and eternal. The best art endures.

So it’s a special thrill for me to know and occasionally hang with the musician who provides the driving beat for my favorite songs.

Come see the Max Weinberg Jukebox at The Crest Theatre on April 11. You’ll be glad you did. Click the link below and say hello. I’ll be in the second row singing along to the best music ever made.

https://oldschoolsquare.secure.force.com/ticket#sections_a0F0G00000SR9NqUAL

The Mighty Max