Holmes Beach mayor pushes for improvements

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Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer and Mayor Judy Titsworth review a document Jan. 14 in Titsworth’s office at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth has found her groove.

She said it took about two weeks from being sworn in Nov. 29, 2018, to set plans into motion to tighten up city functions and improve communication between city employees and elected or appointed officials.

Titsworth also said she is implementing deadlines for staff to complete projects to improve workflow for faster results.

She served as chair for five of her six years as a commissioner before being elected mayor.

As a commissioner, Titsworth was a legislator for the commission. Now she is an administrator — carrying out the commission’s wishes. She does not vote on city commission matters but works closely with each department as the city executive.

“One vow that I’ve made is to make sure that everybody knows everything about what’s going on in the city,” Titsworth said Jan. 14. “Now I can act on the issues that weren’t being taken care of. Now I can make those necessary changes.”


In the clerk’s office

Titsworth said the clerk’s office is working on a contract for an improved website that complies with the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act. City clerk Stacey Johnston has narrowed the prospects to a few companies.

“It has to be ADA compliant now, but we’ve been wanting a new website forever,” Titsworth said. “So she already had the process going.

But this time she has been given a deadline.”

Titsworth said the clerk’s office also is working with code enforcement on business tax receipts and how they tie in with issuing vacation rental certifications.

The VRC renewal process is underway, so code enforcement is inspecting properties, based on the business tax receipts, for compliance.

Additionally, Titsworth said the clerk’s office is looking at a new program so people can access records online.

“She’s going down her list and checking all the boxes,” Johnston said of the mayor. “She’s staying on task and keeping us on task. It’s a good atmosphere to be around and I think everyone is feeling that.”


In code enforcement

Titsworth said the department experiencing the biggest change is code enforcement. Officer James “JT” Thomas was promoted to department supervisor, allowing for more independence in his role.

“He’s got 30 years of code enforcement under his belt,” she said. “It was time.”

Also, Robin Evangalisto, a dispatcher for the police department, is transferring to code enforcement to handle administrative duties, including software tasks and minutes for hearings, in conjunction with the clerk’s office. She also is training to be a code enforcement officer.

The mayor said the department recently purchased software to identify illegal rental advertising.

Titsworth also said the city will hire a fourth code enforcement officer and move the department into offices in the public works building, behind city hall and adjacent to city field.

“As soon as this mayor came in she realized we have a lot of dimensions to code enforcement,” Thomas said. “We try to be proactive and we are creating avenues to get customer service done even faster.”


In the building department

Titsworth said contracted city planner Bill Brisson is now the zoning administrator and questions regarding zoning or the land development code go to Brisson for a response, so building official Jim McGuinness can focus on enforcing the Florida Building Code.

“Right now we’re funneling all those things to (Brisson) and he’s responding quickly,” Titsworth said.

An issue the building department is dealing with is below base flood elevation remodels being “phased” on consecutive permits, which does not result in a finished project until the phases are completed. Phasing is prohibited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as it is a way property owners sidestep FEMA’s 50 percent rule on improvements.

“We’re getting a good handle on FEMA,” she said.

Titsworth said the building department will digitize old building plan microfilms and either purchase or rent a scanner, already budgeted, so plan reviews can be completed electronically.

The city also is considering a proposal for a contractor licensing board similar to those in Anna Maria and Manatee County.


In public works, human resources

“Public works director Dave Benton is really doing a great job,” Titsworth said. “He’s pretty quick to respond with whatever I need.”

Benton is overseeing the installation of outlets on new poles along Marina Drive for holiday lights.

Titsworth said Mary Buonagura, the city’s human resources analyst, is working on special projects, including plans for Grassy Point Preserve, monitoring the upcoming legislative session and writing a request for proposals to update the comprehensive plan.


In the police department

Titsworth said the police department is working on a proposal for keyless access to city buildings, “so we could lockdown at the press of a button.”

She said she is working with Police Chief Bill Tokajer on job descriptions and an updated emergency operations plan.

“We have a great working relationship,” Titsworth said of the HBPD.

“Judy is doing a very good job,” Tokajer said. “She’s willing to learn what it is that each of the departments do and what our needs are, and that’s important.”

Titsworth said she is happy with the direction she is taking the city.

“It’s going really well because we’ve got an amazing staff,” Titsworth said. “Some changes were made, but our staff is great — they are hard workers, they know their stuff and I couldn’t be more pleased.”

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