Culture is Everything

Something is wrong in Delray Beach.

I’ve been saying this for awhile now. Sometimes I’ve been vilified by the usual suspects for pointing out the obvious but we’ve had eight city managers in eight years and that’s not good. We’ve also had a slew of department heads and City Attorney’s come and go too.
It’s not a sign of health. It’s a sign of sickness.
And if you don’t think this affects you—well with all due respect, you’re mistaken because it does.
Turnover costs money. Tax money.
Lawsuits cost money too.
It’s hard to deliver efficient services with an ever changing cast of characters.
It’s also hard if you work for the city or are trying to do business in town.

Dysfunction chases away investment and when you are known as a hard place to work it’s no surprise when you can’t attract or retain talent.
I’m writing this in the wake of the firing of George Gretsas, the latest in a long line of City Managers who have come here with high hopes only to leave beaten and battered. Every time that happens, we drive the price up for the next contestant brave or crazy enough to apply for the job.
So far, none of the previous eight contestants have left here with their reputations entirely intact.
We seem to have factions not only on the City Commission but also on the staff level with a few bad actors sowing division. That’s a relatively new and troubling development.

The next round of head hunting ought to be fascinating. The commission has already been told that Delray has a toxic reputation. Before they go out to the market again there needs to be some serious soul searching or we will pay another premium price for a CM who also won’t last.
One glaring deficiency is a lack of vision. Successful Mayors and commission’s strive to create a unified vision and shared goals. This way if there is division at least you have your common goals to fall back on.  This helps City Manager’s and staff because they have a North Star to guide them. The most recent Comp Plan exercise was lacking because it largely cut out the  public. Plus, Comp Plan updates typically happen after a visioning process not in lieu of one.
From the outside, I don’t see any goals or vision. So I asked a few prominent citizens  to tell me if they knew the city’s goals. Nobody could name one goal. Now they may exist, but if nobody knows what they are or can see progress on those goals you’ve got a problem.
The absence of common goals leads to ala Carte policymaking and a whole lot of 3-2 votes.
That leads to hard feelings and a lack of progress.
Cities (and nations) go off the rails when it starts to become about personalities and factions rather than community driven goals and plans.
 That’s where we are my friends.
Does this get fixed?
Only if we demand it does and to date we haven’t. Major institutions in town have been silent. Where are the associations? Where is the business community?
Granted, we are in a pandemic and preoccupied. But dysfunction in City Hall in a pandemic, during hurricane season with a projected budget shortfall of $10 million won’t make it easier to recover. We need to be paying attention and we need to demand better results and offer our help.
We stand for what we tolerate.
And right now we are standing for a whole lot of dysfunction.


  1. Your absolutely correct, Delray is a ship on the sea that’s rudderless. I’m not sure about the allegations on Gretas but it’s unheard of having a city manager for only six months. You need to give new managers an opportunity to assimilate into the culture and community, Six months is not a sufficient amount of time. Greatas worked for many years in a community with much bigger needs then Delray. He performed from what I understand admirably, the fault I believe lies with the mayor and selectman, we need a complete sweep of the purported city leaders, they are the problem not George Gretas!

  2. This is where Delray was in the 80’s but I think it was 10 CMs or
    interims in that decade. A new majority was elected and a new
    manager hired. The commission allowed the manager to run the city and he stayed 22 years.

  3. Jim Chard says

    The City is not only rudderless, it is lawless. How do you make such a consequential decision in the midst of a pandemic and racial unrest? There was no rule of law, no transparency, no sworn testimony, no official report, no innocent until proven guilty, no opportunity to mount a defense. This city of nearly 70,000 residents, over 900 employees and a budget north of $150,000,000 is being run like a lemonade stand led by 6 year olds.

  4. Yvonne Odom says

    Stay woke Delray! It’s not the man with the knee on the neck, it’s the other 3 allowing it without saying a word. STAY WOKE Delray!! On point article!

  5. Jim Chard says

    I’m becoming more mellow. 🙂

  6. Bob Victorin says

    The right people can turn things around and bring stability. Who are they? Our current leadership could step up but we need to work together and be guided by fair and proven management principles and not politics. It’s for the good of Delray Beach and all residents. We should not have lost eight City Managers in eight years plus other staff.

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