Terry K. Suggs (Business)
Well, good morning. I understand this is the lively group of the bunch today. So, anyway, I'm Terry Suggs. I am of course candidate for the city manager here in Daytona beach. I'll give you just a few minutes of, a little bit of background about who I am, where I come from, municipal experience and management style. And then I'll turn it over to you folks, because you don't want to hear me talk, you want to ask you questions and I'll do the best I can to answer all of them.
If I know the answer I'll share. If I don't, I'll let you know that too. And you know, I believe in, absolute honest communication back and forth. So, a little about me. Married, I have
a wonderful wife, Julie, who's my biggest supporter. We have one son grown son. whose married with him and his wife live north of Atlanta. I have five brothers and sisters. Our parents are farmers.
We moved a lot. Basically if it, if you could plant a seed in the ground, grow it and harvest it. That's what we did. I'm very proud of that. I have a photo of my office as a rather large, and there's a, my father, it's the last photo taken of him on a tractor, right. 40 past. And, uh, you know, it reminds me of my roots and where I come from. Nothing is very important, you know, but they come up at a little different time than a lot of us did in a little different era.
But I'll say that to share that my father was very limited on his education. They had no formal education. My mother had limited education. They grew up on farms, but what they did teach their children a couple of things I think is very important. One is you got to work every day and you work hard and you do the best you can. The second thing is you got to know what the value of an education is. So I'm proud to say that all my brothers and sister graduated from high school, four of us graduated from college with degrees.
The brother who is closest in age to me is the one that got me started in public service. And he just retired from Clay County as a property appraiser was in that office for 30 years, the last 12 as the elected official. He kinda gave me a, kind of gave me a start in public service and I'm proud of that. Well, I've got very fortunate. That's, that's my background as far as personal I'll tell you a little bit about my municipal government experience. 25 plus years started working for a Alachua County, which was a great opportunity for me.
Alachua County saw something to me I didn't see in myself that gave me an opportunity to work in the growth management department. That housed your planning and zoning and housed building and permitting, it housed code enforcement. Stayed there for awhile. They also gave me an opportunity to go over to public works and be an operations manager. When I left there, I was over all the solid waste drop off sites for Alachua County.
They also gave me the first opportunity to go to school. They sent me to Florida State University. They sent me to Florida State University for the certified public managers certification. That
was an absolutely wonderful opportunity because it taught me more about being a manager than any course I've ever taken. And yes, it was hard cause I'm a diehard Gator fan, but I proudly display it on my wall, my office every day. I did that I was with Alachua County for 14 years. This is where I want to be. This is the life that I love, which is public service, but I've got to go back to school if I want to do anything. And so I went back and went to college and got my bachelor's degree in August of 2011. And in September of 2011, l got my first city manager's job,
small community in Clay County. And so I've been fortunate to stay in the area. What they didn't tell me when I become the city manager was that I was also the human resources manager, the building manager planning manager, and a finance manager. Okay. But what that did for me those years allow me to learn more than I ever learned if I went somewhere else that had those positions field. And I was there for almost four years. In the city of Palatka or again,
right up the street, came calling and asked me to be their city manager, a full service community police, fire, public works, utilities, water, wastewater, solid waste, gas, airport, golf course, you name it. We had the river. That also allowed me to continue that growth pattern. Graduated with a master's degree in 2013 in public administration. The work that we're doing in Palatka was recognized by the board of county commissioners in Putnam County.
16 year County manager decided to retire. They made the call. They asked me if I'd come over, I was fortunate enough to be selected and appointed the county administrator. And we've been there now for going on four years. And it's been a great ride, you know, but that's my municipal experience. Okay. My management philosophy, I believe in. May I get my water real quick?
I can see this one's going to be a fun crowd. A little bit about my management philosophy is. I believe in all the buzzwords let's call them what they are. They're words, words for most people. Open communication, transparency, diversity. Okay. Those are buzzwords, but they're also tenants if you want to be successful and that's what I live by.
Okay. And that's what I practice as a city manager and county administrator. I have an open door policy. My office took all the locks off the doors so people could walk back and forth.
When I got there, there's not a day goes by that I don't have citizens, staff or commissioners come sit in my office just to talk. And people said, well, that's a disruption of the day. How are you getting anything done? I get more done with those communications than I do any of the time of the day, because if I know about an issue before it becomes a problem, I can find a solution. And that's exactly what we need to do. Okay. So open communication is key. Transparency is also key.
It breeds trust. Okay. Go back and watch the August 15th video when I was appointed county manager. There was a young lady named Roxanne Weeks.
Roxanne was a toughest lady you have ever met. She was on us every day about something. My first day at City of Palatka we had a plane crash and a dog case. And she was about the dog case. She didn't care about the plane crash. I had people calling me from Germany, from PETA, you know, about the dog issue, you know, but when I was appointed County administrator, she was first one stepped up and said, when Mr. Suggs came to the city I didn't need to go back over there.
He'd sit down and talk to me. He answered my questions. I didn't have to do these things. And she is my biggest supporter. And I was proud of that. Okay. Diversity in your community, you better represent your community that you live in and work in. And I believe in that it. When
I was city manager at Palatka we had to hire a police chief. That was one of the first things I had to do. I did a national search. The person I ended up presenting to the board happened to be a 17 year veteran of our own police department. Jason Shaw,
Jason was a high school basketball coach. He was involved with the pal league. He had the pulse of the community. All those things were all the right attributes that make him the right choice.
So nothing I'm going to say has anything to do with this, but he's also the first African-American that were, that was chief of police in Palatka. Okay. Black has 50, 50 as far as population. Okay. And diversity. Jason Shaw has done an outstanding job. Chief Shaw took over that police department. It was unaccredited prior to him becoming chief two years later.
He and I got the accreditation together in February of 2017. He's a a great police chief. He's also my friend. I get to call him my friend. He called me last night to wish me luck. You know? So I believe in that, I believe in promoting from within, if you've had this job and you've worked this job and you've got the right skill sets and the prerequisites to do the job, you should have an opportunity to do the job. It breeds loyalty. And it breeds succession plan, you know, you don't want someone to leave, walk out with all that institutional knowledge, not knowing to replace them. The third thing I believe in is bringing people home.
If you've lived here growing up here, went to school, you moved off for something better, but you want to come home, come home. I find that those people, or they will do everything and anything for their community and they're happy to be home. So that's kind of my philosophy about management. I believe in walking around, getting know my staff, I'm not a micromanager. I set expectations based on the priorities of the commissioners. And I expect you to get it done. We meet, we talk,
quite frequently about those things. Make sure we're all on the same path, but I'll work beside you. I won't work for you. You know, we'll get it done, but I'm not going to micromanage you. That's kind of me in a nutshell, you know, I've been very successful with it. I'm not your typical city manager. I started at the bottom and worked my way up, which gives me a different little perspective on things.
The last thing I'll say is I've always wanted to manage people the way I wanted it to be managed. Last story I'll share. I worked for the same city county manager for 10 years. Didn't know him, never been invited to a meeting, did what he asked me to do because that's my job. But they, I got appointed to the city manager's position. I got called to the leadership team the next day to county manager's office and his comment. I'll never forget it was, he's one of us now.
So y'all give him anything he needs. And I thought I'd always been one of you. I've worked here 10 years. You know? So, I mean, there's different types of management styles. There just are people manage the way that's comfortable for them and get things done. You know, I've managed my style. I believe in empowering my staff to do their job, empower myself to meet with my citizens to get out and do those meetings, that need to be done. And you'll see me at those meetings as well. So that's it folks, that's me in a nutshell, this is your meeting.
This is different little meet and greet here, but let's give it the best we can. Let's hear from some people that didn't get a chance to ask a question. In fact though, I went to Palatka I got a chance to talk to someone about some of those folks. And I asked her who run the funeral and she loved you. Mary Lawson Brown. I've met with the leadership of Bethune-Cookman College a couple of weeks ago, a lady by the name of Cassandra Strokes. Yes, sir. She came over and met with us on, on the housing issues.
Absolutely. She said that she loved you. You was an optimum, visual, great personality. She would love to have you at the City of Daytona Beach. Okay well you tell Cassandra I said, thank you and checks in the mail, but, no we held a lot of good meetings with, with those folks and she did a great job and she represented them. We'll take a question in the front, and then heading in the back. Yes.
I was taking a look at the average household income for Daytona Beach for the year of 2019. And sadly to say it was only 35,893. People would like to live a more comfortable life. We need to attract jobs to this area. We need to track big business so that we too have an opportunity for economic freedom and opportunity for children and our households. Um, I mean, of course I don't work and make money from Volusia County. I support an organization in Virginia for the veterans administration for the three letter agencies here, but not everyone here in Daytona Beach has an opportunity to make money working virtually for another state.
I'd like to know what is your experience as it relates to bringing and attracting big business to a small organization, which is those communities such as those that you were sitting at your door, what would you do? How would you set yourself apart from your competitors in this space to help they Daytona excel and become financially independent? Very good question. I will tell you that we, in 2015 through 17, we were going through the same things in Putnam County that you folks are going through here. We put a team together called project Putnam. And what that did is it brought our federal folks together. Our congressperson,
which was Kat Cammack, the president of the local college, Joe Pickens. Uh, then we brought our school superintendent into the meeting and then all our other stakeholders within our community that had needs the fill. And so what we've done is we've been able to go out and attract folks to come in. I told you about the one business I came in. It brought 130 jobs. I believe I told you about the Camargo. Did I not share that story? If I did not share it now, our business park was built. We built a building in 2004, right before the market tanked. Okay.
It sat vacant, no floors, no windows, no doors. Okay. So a year and a half, two years ago, a company, we, we went looking for a business. Okay. There was a company called Camargo products. They're a food processing plant, and they do eggplants for tons of restaurants all over the East coast. Okay. Eight months of growing in the South. They're not growing in New Jersey.
So when I, want you come relocate down here, we've got a great facility. We can give you for a reasonable price. You put your infrastructure in, as far as building that building, you know, and we'll make it work. $10 million later, they relocated their entire business to Putnam County, 130 jobs. Okay.
We've got to a hundred thousand square foot warehouses wanting to relocate now. Yes. I know what the business is. No, I can't tell you because of confidentiality, but they're good. Sustainable businesses. Okay. Wanting to relocate, I've already found one. We're going to have to build a second one. Okay. We don't have that kind of warehouse. I've got another individual who wants to buy.
We got a 20,000 square foot facility that's privately owned in the business part that someone just rent a part of it out for an upstart company. A medical provider, he now wants to buy all the surrounding acres to build something new. So that's what we're doing. We're marketing what we have. Okay. So, our income, we measure the income went from 35,000 per to 45,000 in that same timeframe, you know? And that's only simply by bringing business in. Now, we have two local companies that have been partners for a long time.
And Putnam County, Georgia Pacific. I don't know if you know him, but they make, they make Brawny. They make Charmin. They make Angel Soft, all the things we use every day. Well, they needed to upgrade their paper facility and they were looking to relocating it because of the cost. We partnered with them to get them to stay, gave him some incentives yes you have to do that from time to time. $700 million upgrade right there in Putnam County. Okay. 800 employees.
Okay. Seminole Power, coal fire facility. Well, we all know we're shifting from coal to gas. So they're shutting down one of their coal fire plants and putting in natural gas. My executive, development services team made that work. They're out there every day. They're getting closer to the completion. And so again, we saved that business as well, you know, from relocating.
So those are the things that we need to do, Partner with your colleges and universities. You've got a ton of property here. Okay? The citizens of Daytona Beach and your seven elected officials need to figure out what it is you want to do for good quality growth, sustainable growth, less taxing on your infrastructure. Then, then certain residential properties might be create those jobs that you have, you know, which also will increase a dollar value, hopefully per household.
[Inaudible]. ILet me say this. If you don't get a chance to talk to me in this session, I'm here till Sunday. Do you have a question you'd like to ask? Okay. I actually know I'm concerned about inclusion and representation of the workforce.
Those are the two things that she hit me when we first started that. Very, very good. So what we need here, this is something like that. Now, how would you go about changing that? Because right now we, you don't get to speak in the meetings and you can speak now. So freedom of speech has been taken away from us, so we need to get that restored. So how would you go about getting that done and diversifying our workforce, which needs to diversified, you know, and what is your plan? Well, this is my plan. My plan is to follow the direction of my board of city commissioners.
I apologize. I misspoke there about what they want to do and how they want to run their meetingas as they are the facilitators of that meeting. However, that doesn't mean you can't come sit in my office and talk to me directly as exactly what I was talking about earlier. When I said I had an open door policy, okay. Folks, we'll just make a call. They call my office everyday, says, Mr. Sugg's got a few minutes and they just come over. Okay.
That's what you and I need to do. If you feel like your voice has been stymied, you come see me less than me. And you sit down and talk because I will share what it is. It needs to be shared. Well, those seven elected officials in my staff that needs to know what's what's on your mind. Absolutely. That is you don't have to worry about the commissioners.
You just, just come see me. Okay. I'll share your communication. Absolutely. [Inaudible]. You listen, everybody manages differently. And during this pandemic, and let's be honest, we shut down our commission meetings as well during the pandemic, because it was just a right thing to do, but we still had to do business. We had to meet and had to make sure that we conducted the business of the citizens. You know, the way that the law requires us to do. Okay. So there was limitation. Okay. I've been through COVID.
I've had it. I've had two shots. I wear a mask. If I need to wear a mask, you can come talk to me. You don't have to come to my office. Call me, I'll meet you for coffee. Absolutely. Yes. Ma'am. Or I'm sorry. My apologies. My apologies. My family. Second generation
or 45 years. Questioning deals with regards to the statistics that say black multiemployment businesses are the job generators in the black community, but every place, no matter who's in charge of DC, no matter who's in charge there's always 50% percentage of unemployment with regard to the black community. And if that's the same in Palatka, it's the same Daytona.
What plan do you have to try them into a lift? so that we can begin to even pay the disproportionate unemployment in the black community. That goes to 50% unemployment among black males. That's what causes the crime. It caused the load on our social network of support here.
Do you have specific experiences doing that from your background community experience and what would you do in Daytona to solve that kind of problem? You know, that's, that's, that's systemic everywhere and, uh, it's not just, it's just not here in Daytona Beach. Uh, but here's the issue. Uh, we have to see what it is that you're marketing. And so you have to where it is that we can assist you in that and attract the more folks that want to come shop, buy, live, work, you know, in those communities, I don't have the magic answer and I'm not, I want wouldn't stay here and tell you I did, because I just don't. But I will tell you this, that if you don't start somewhere and you don't look at the issue itself, and Senator Rob Bradley was my first city attorney, and he taught me this. Terry if you just break everything down to this minute base.
You'll find something that everybody has in common and you build from there. And that's what we need to do. I won't be able to come in here and fix it overnight, but I'll tell you this.
We would be able to sit down and talk and figure out what's our, so many, the avenues that we may want to pursue to make some of those changes that you're asking for. But as far as me being able to give you a, an answer to that, I won't be able to do that. For fact, I don't even know what the business structure is until I get over here and get very involved with the community. But I will tell you this,
all you gotta do is I ask me and we'll sit down and we'll talk and I'll come visit your business. Absolutely. Yes, sir. Yeah. As you're probably aware, tourism is a big portion of the economy. Um, can you provide any of your experience that might give some scale relative to our area and how you would see, in light of the pandemic, opportunities for us to revitalize.
Yes, sir. I will tell you that in 25 years, I'd never dealt with anything like COVID and it has changed the way that everybody does business and the way that everybody manages. Um, you know, the answer to that is, I think it's on the horizon with, vaccinations and herd immunity and things of that nature. Uh, you know,
we don't have the same level of events that you folks have here in Daytona Beach with a Daytona 500, Bike Week, spring break, and things of that nature. But we do still on, you know, on our scale, we have those events, like the Bassmasters elite that is very prominent, you know, and, and we have our festivals, our blue craft festivals, that's a four day event, you know, we're working through those issues right now, uh, on how we can, our fair, we, we, we voted last month to go ahead and host the Putnam County. Fair. Matter of fact, it started last night and, uh, we're trying to do things that keep people safe, but start promoting this, you know, it's okay to get back out and type environment, you know, uh, we're fortunate, we're a blue collar town.
We didn't get hurt as bad as some folks like you did over here in Daytona or in Orlando with Disney. But it's going to be a matter when people are comfortable with this pandemic, that they're going to come back out, I'm fully supportive of opening up as fast as you can but with safety regulations, CDC guidelines of that nature. You know, it's just been different. It just truly has. And, uh, I think what we'll, what we'll see coming out of this is I think most of our events will survive, you know, the larger events, but there's going to be a difference to them as we move forward.
I just believe that we're just going to have to wait for the herd immunity. If that's the term you want to hear this morning to come through and people get back to some sense of normally I'll tell you I was eating at a restaurant, my wife and I came over on one of our weekly visits and we're eating at a place called Eat Greek. And there was two ladies that were sitting at a table next to us outside on the patio. And they were retired. One was from Boston. Someone was from somewhere else and they were talking about bike week and how they were disappointed that the commission allowed bike week to move forward.
There's going to come a point in time. Folks were, were going to have to believe in the science and the things that they're telling us and start doing some of these things, if not our communities are going to continue to suffer. And, uh, you know, as long as we do it in a right way, in a healthy way, I believe we need to do that. Okay. We have time for about one more question.
I have a very good question that you can get into. Would you be willing to work on a term limited contract for say five years? My contract right now with Putnam County is a three-year contract with a three-year roll over if the commissioners don't find a reason to let me go. You know what I get evaluated every second and fourth Tuesday, you know, the contract is only as good as a job that see your city manager does that commission has the opportunity to be given time to make a difference. So, yes, ma'am one more. Yes. Ma'am.
Give us an idea of the demographics in Palatka and the size of the budget that you're managing in Palatka versus $250 million here. I'm the County manager right now. And our budget is 160 million dollars. Yes, ma'am. We have 72,000 residents within our County when I was city manager. It was much smaller than that. It was about, 50,000 or $50 million budget,
150, or so employees, 10,000 residents. I'm the County manager now with 160 million, I got roughly 250 with the Sheriff's office just over 500. Yes. Ma'am. Anybody else We're covered? Well, what type of salary would I like? That's a good question when me and the commissioners get together and have that conversation, But I appreciate that, I'm, I'm, I'm in the top two.
I need to be in the top one. So yeah, absolutely. Anything else, folks, again, I'll be here after, after this is over, so thank you.