Renewal at Dania Beach, Florida

Dania Beach pic
Dania Beach
Image: ci.dania-beach.fl.us

Dania Beach is the first and oldest city in Broward County, Florida. Over the years, it has begun to experience many of the challenges that cities all along Florida’s east coast have faced. Robert Baldwin, the city manager of Dania Beach, is responsible for the administration of the city. Under his leadership, many reforms and renovations are underway.

Dania Beach’s oceanfront is adjacent to an area state park. Therefore, rather than the commercialized ocean fronts of nearby towns, Dania Beach has the benefit of offering beach-goers a more natural environment. To capitalize on these benefits–and in part due to the work of Robert Baldwin and the Office of the City Manager–renovations have been progressing along the oceanfront.

Dania’s Ocean Park offers convenient parking, two restaurants, and a popular fishing pier that is open to the public. New chickee huts and bathrooms have been added to the park. In addition, the 120-slip Dania Beach Marina located across the street has undergone renovations and improvements. Slips within the marina are available for transient, monthly, and annual rental.

Broward County Sheriff’s Office Enlists the Help of Local Art Students

Robert Baldwin has spent the last five years as a city manager in Dania Beach, Florida. Robert Baldwin has additional experience as an assistant city manager in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale and as CAO in the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. As Assistant City Manager of Fort Lauderdale, he also was in charge of controlling Spring Break.

In anticipation of the annual spring break crowd, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Ron Cochran got Robert Baldwin’s approval to take a somewhat unusual approach toward preventing excessive graffiti on a concrete wall running along Road A1A. Cochran urged more than 1,000 local art students to arrive at the wall with paint buckets and art supplies in tow and to go to work. The chief did not indicate a preference for color, only encouraging the artists to accomplish their work before the wall was tagged with spray paint. The wall extends from Granada Street to East Las Olas Boulevard, covering about 2,500 feet, likely providing the young artists with the largest canvas they had ever worked on. While Cochran’s motivations were purely professional, he joked that the nation’s next great artist might be discovered as part of the project.

Budgetary Improvements in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Florida

The city manager of Dania Beach, Florida, Robert Baldwin previously served as the town manager of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Florida. During his tenure, Robert Baldwin implemented administrative reforms to the town’s financial reporting, which earned him positive coverage by the Sun Sentinel (http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1997-12-21/community/9712171223_1_town-s-finances-town-hall-town-commission). He subsequently proposed a budget that would improve the town’s economy, including certain strategic investments and tax cuts.

Following the annexation of a condominium complex, the resort town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea recognized an opportunity to better the quality of life for its citizens. The purchase of Sea Ranch Lakes condominiums in unincorporated Broward County increased the town’s population by 1,800 people, its tax base by nearly 60 percent, and its total taxable value to $428 million.

These changes led Baldwin to issue a proposal that would cut taxes by almost 20 percent and allow Lauderdale-by-the-Sea to levy some of the lowest tax rates in Broward County. Under his budget, home owners would have to pay $3.85 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value rather than the previous amount of $4.85. Yet even with lower taxes, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea would still be able to fund a budget $818,000 greater than the previous year’s. The new money would be used to hire a part-time parking meter repair professional and two new police officers. Moreover, the town would retain money for further annexation projects.

Professional Management Rescues Florida City

Upon earning his master’s degree in public administration in 1976, Robert Baldwin embarked on a career in his chosen field, working for a year in Broward County, Florida’s Central Services Department and then securing an appointment as the assistant city manager of Fort Lauderdale. In 1986 he resigned to form a business consulting company and explore various opportunities worldwide. During the next few years, Robert Baldwin visited every one of the 50 states and about 50 foreign nations as well. He returned to Florida in 1991 to accept a six-month position as assistant manager of the city of Hollywood, Florida.

When Robert Baldwin stepped in, Hollywood was experiencing financial, management, and leadership difficulties. His job was to hold down the fort until a new city manager could be appointed. However, at the request of the former interim city manager, he prepared a management analysis report to help prepare the new manager.

Baldwin’s report outlined a city in trouble. The city paid to staff a sewage pumping station, for instance, despite the fact that it had not worked in the two decades since it was built. It also paid managers for not using their vacations in an unusual arrangement that permitted them to use comp time for vacations and bank vacation time until they retired, which cost the city millions of dollars. In another boondoggle, the city paid a consulting firm $330,000 to install a $2.2 million citywide computer system. At the time of the report, not only hadn’t the system been installed, it was obsolete.

A larger problem, asserted the report, was a culture of secrecy and an air of confusion in the city manager’s office over lines of authority and job responsibilities. In addition, by all accounts, the city’s elected commissioners were frequently kept in the dark about problems until they appeared in the press.

Baldwin’s report was dismissed by many who saw it as the whining of a resentful former employee, but the new city manager heeded it and acted on some of its suggestions. A year later, an independent report prepared by professional auditors echoed Baldwin’s findings.

Taking a Look Back – Commemorating Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s 1997 Budget

In his position as town manager of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Robert Baldwin proved to be a competent, capable administrator. Robert Baldwin, City Manager, organized and streamlined operations, and was recognized for his participation in the presentation of the city’s budget.

In the December 21, 1997, edition of the Sun Sentinel, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea was commended for the reporting of its budget, as overseen by the town manager at that time, Robert Baldwin. The Broward County municipality was recognized by the U.S. and Canadian Government Finance Officers Association.

According to the news report, before Baldwin took over in 1995, the town’s budget reflected a $40,000 shortfall, and failed to address a pending lawsuit of $170,000. In fact, a cigar box supplanted a cash register in the town hall. Commissioners, during the period, perused a financial spreadsheet instead of a budget proposal to assess the city’s financial needs and requirements.

During Baldwin’s tenure, however, the city commissioners employed an accountant part-time, acquired new software, and retained the services of an established Fort Lauderdale auditing firm.

The comprehensive report, which was accorded the recognition, was lauded for its adherence to generally accepted accounting practices. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s financial director was also presented with an achievement award for her preparation of the paperwork. Helen Short, who compiled the document, indicated that the report was not prepared to merely present numerical data; it was intended to provide information that was easy to understand.

Citizen Involvement in a City Manager Municipal Government

Robert Baldwin, the City Manager of Dania Beach, Florida, has more than two decades of experience in municipal management of various cities in the South Florida area, including more than 10 years as manager of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. He earned his master’s degree in public administration from the University of Florida, with a concentration in city management and budgeting. Robert Baldwin has enhanced his qualifications by taking extensive training in team building and leadership development from the accounting firm of Arthur Young & Company.

While the city manager form of government is designed to remove partisan political considerations from the daily routine of operating a municipal government and delivering essential services, a good municipal manager must still market the government’s programs and services to its citizens and be responsive to citizen input regarding those programs.

For example, many municipalities provide their citizens a broad range of services. However, if citizens do not avail themselves of those services, the municipality must determine whether it is prudent to continue providing them.

Thus, cities maintain websites, issue newsletters, and employ public relations firms to help citizens learn about the various services their government offers. Many cities routinely survey their own citizens to learn what their priorities are to determine what services they would most appreciate.

Another form of citizen participation is volunteerism. Most municipalities have several citizen advisory boards whose volunteer members can influence the formation of public policy.

ICMA Annual Conference Provides Effective Community Management Tips

A seasoned local government administrator, Robert Baldwin has served as the assistant city manager and city manager for Florida communities such as Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Lake Worth. With experience in managing large-scale organizations, Robert Baldwin enjoys finding resolutions for complex problems. Since 1975, he has held membership in the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

Committed to fostering excellence in local government management, ICMA identifies practices that address the needs of local governments worldwide. The organization provides results-oriented assistance, training, information, and professional development to its members. As part of its initiatives, ICMA conducts an annual international conference for local government staff and managers.

The annual international conference offers information-sharing tools and education for government staff to carry out their duties in today’s complex environment. In addition, the conference serves as an opportunity to network with other participants from around the world. The organization’s next conference will be held in September of 2014, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event marks the 100th anniversary of the first ICMA conference.