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.