Orange Park, FL

Orange Park town manager’s job evaluation results in sharp words between council members

Julie Morgan

Orange Park Town Manager Sarah CampbellPhoto byTown of Orange Park website

At the first Orange Park town council meeting of the year, the council considered the performance and pay increase of Town Manager Sarah Campbell.

Much of the final 40 minutes of the recent meeting was dedicated to an open-air performance review and debate about what should and should not be said.

One council member was chastised for her comments about Campbell.

Councilwoman Susana Thompson spent nearly 10 minutes outlining several areas where she felt Campbell could improve. This included increasing audience participation at meetings, making the information about available grant funds public, and staying abreast of new businesses opening in the town, among other things.

At the start of Thompson's review, she said her scorecard for Campbell was based on constituents' comments.

"I have both town residents and business owners saying how disappointed they are that our town does not have diversification in allowing them to bid on jobs. We have an issue," said Thompson.

She also talked about setting goals for the town manager, comparing her salary to others in the state.

"Performance needs to be equal to compensation structure. The council needs to have consistent performance measures in place for our town manager. We should, as a council, benchmark performance going forward."

Vice-mayor Alan Watt followed Thompson's remarks. "We're so blessed to have the quality of staff that we do that what I just heard blows me away," he said. Later in the meeting, Watt added to his comments.

"I find your evaluation skills appalling and insulting at the rate that you do this. I know why you're doing it, and I know who you're doing it for. It's just wrong. You've obviously never been trained or been in a position where you had to write evaluations for people because if you did, you'd know what you're doing," said Watt.

Thompson responded to Watt’s comments. "It's not OK for you to say that to me. I'm not the one with an agenda here. Apparently, truth doesn't matter until you get called to task for it, said Thompson.

Councilman Doug Benefield and Watt were on the same side. After commending Campbell for her work, Benefield turned to Thompson.

"Councilwoman Thompson, that felt like Festivus, the airing of grievances," said Benefield. He encouraged her to work more closely with the town manager so that she doesn't "feel the need to do that in front of everyone here."

Councilman John Hauber acknowledged a small number of complaints about Campbell.

"I may have one percent that are negative complaints, but at the same time, there's a lot of misunderstanding of what is going on behind the scenes."

Mayor Randy Anderson took a different approach.

"Sarah does her performance off council’s. We can't just assume she understands what we want. I think there needs to be more communication. Some of us only talk to Sarah when we come to a meeting. To me, Sarah does a great job."

After the discussion, it was time to vote on a pay raise for Campbell. The council voted 4-1 to award her a 3 percent increase. Thompson was the lone "no" vote. After the raise, Campbell’s salary is about $130,000.

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