Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday March 23, 2014 The Legacy of Alan Harvey

This week's announcement that long time St. Petersburg City Administrator Rick Musset was retiring got me to thinking.

A large number of the St. Pete administrative management team has 25 to 30 and more years of service. Many of them started between 1980 and 1984 and have been with the City in senior management roles for many of these years.

If you really step back and look, there have been dozens of different City Council members, a number of weak mayors,  numerous City Managers, and four strong Mayors since the form of government changed in the early 1990's, but the staff has stayed very consistent.

So who was the person that hired all of these people who have endured for all of these years and been so instrumental in the creation of St. Petersburg as we know it today?

Answer - City manager Alan Harvey.

If you would like to read the set up that lead to Alan's arrival as City Manager check out this link: More than Mayor or Manager: Campaigns to Change Form of Government  in America's Large Cities.

Alan Harvey became City Manger following the 10 year tenure of Ray Harbaugh. Harvey was young, charismatic and aggressive. He wanted to replace the typical bureaucrat with people who wanted to get things done and he set about building a staff that would endure for over 30 years.

Most of his hires did not come from government; they came from the private sector.

My career at the City began in 1981, but my actual recruitment began over a year earlier as a friend and former Honeywell engineer who had gone to work for the City, kept chiding me about giving something back to the community and coming to work for this really neat guy Alan Harvey.

I had to take a pay cut to make the move but the stories he told were just to intriguing to pass up and so I remember saying "ok I'll give you two years and then Ill 'have to go back the private sector to make a living."

I retired from the City 28 years later. Some of my colleagues could tell you similar stories.

Once on board it was a whirlwind of excitement with a get it done form of leadership. Harvey instilled strong

sense of public service with a loyalty that would have you follow him up any hill.

Harvey was loyal to his staff and would fiercely defend them if they were attacked.

With his aggressive style Alan Harvey lived in hurricane of controversy. His aggressiveness was also his undoing as reported in a September 1985 Evening Independent Story by Steve Kaylor Controversy has Surrounded Alan Harvey as City Manager.

Harvey would soon leave the City, forced out by his detractors, but his legacy, that strong staff of talented people, remained on for over 25 more years. Through the staff he hired, nurtured and set an example for, St. Petersburg has become the City it is.  

City mangers and mayors came and went but there was never a major "house cleaning" There were some changes but never a wholesale changing of the guard. The reason: as a team they were just too good.

But now time has taken its toll and there is a need for new team. That responsibility has fallen to Rick Kriseman and it is no small task.

Senior positions in the Legal department, Police, Fire, Economic development, Parks and recreation, and first tier Directors and Managers in a number of departments are now ready or rapidly approaching their retirement dates.

 It would be difficult to duplicate the legacy of Alan Harvey's staff; probably impossible.

Not that there are not equally talented people willing to serve, but in today's political world staff is a throw away resource.

People hired in the current administration are seen more as liabilities than as resources when the political tide changes and new administration is elected to office.

Kriseman has a daunting task to add new people to the City administration that are not opportunists but are really dedicated to investing a career in their City. To accomplish that task he must hire them and inspire them.

Assuming a reelection, Kriseman has 8 years to establish his mayoral legacy, but history has given him the opportunity to make a much bigger mark.

If the new mayor can avoid the temptation to be swallowed up by the din of voices clamoring for their special interest group and rebuild a professional staff that wants to work for all of St. Petersburg, then maybe, just maybe 30 years from now some guy or gal sitting at a keyboard can write about how proud they were to be a part of it.

 I know I am.

 e-mail Doc at:, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet, WATCHDOGWIRE-FLORIDA and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks

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