As part of the city's annual city manager review process, The Log has thumbed through the evaluations that were completed by the members of the City Council to see what they had to say/write about Maryann Ustick's job performance.
The goals and objectives portion of the evaluation asked for the councilmembers to rate Ustick on various aspects of city business, such as initiating programs and tasks that produce attainable workforce housing; identifying and seeking approval to obtain property or develop easements to provide boating/water access for the public; improving and expanding the city's library, parks and recreational services; examining pedestrian crossing and parking needs for construction in the harbor district; working toward restoration of all Destin beaches; restoration of Norriego Point; and implementing a comprehensive communications plan citywide to name a few.
Based on the executive summary of the evaluation process, 34 percent of the goals and objectives for FY2012 were achieved, while 66 percent of the goals were not achieved. Of the 66 percent of goals not achieved, 70 percent indicated the effort and results to date were satisfactory.
As for Ustick's general management and performance portion of the evaluation, she was given a 72 percent achievement score and 28 percent not achieved score. Of the 28 percent not achieved, 39 percent of the responses indicated efforts and results were satisfactory, while 61 percent indicated efforts were not satisfactory.
Thumbing through the individual evaluations, some councilmembers provided very detailed observations, while other simply marked whether or not they thought the goal or objective was achieved.
For his part, Councilman Jim Bagby provided some handwritten notes for the city manager. He suggested that Ustick "sustain" a reliance on strong staff and the city's information operations (social media, website), while making improvements to code enforcement (resourcing) and staff development. He also told her to be the “change agent” when translating the council's requests into staff action.
"Overall good job, but not great," he wrote. "You are killing yourself with your schedule/obligations. You need to focus your effort."
Councilman Tuffy Dixon offered a pretty stern assessment of Ustick during the city's Council Meeting Monday night when he told his colleagues that he wasn't sure she was the right person to "lead us into the future."
As for his evaluation, Dixon checked the achieved box nine times, while marking the not achieved box 14 times. He noted that the city should work to address its current business environment.
"The city has created an environment which has made it more difficult to do business," he wrote. "I have spoken to many people that are not willing to work or do business in Destin because of all the red tape."
Councilwoman Sandy Trammell made plenty of notes on her evaluation form. Under the "plan and implement" multimodal projects, she said the city has made "great progress," but more could be done. As for the completion of the harbor boardwalk, Trammell noted that the finished product was a joint success.
"Started prior to this administration, so can't give full credit for this," she wrote.
Trammell was also rather critical when it came to the city manager's role in the stabilization and permanent armoring of Norriego Point.
"This whole process was a clear illustration of lack of leadership according to all citizens I've spoken with," she wrote. "Our staff should not have stepped out and continued to go its own direction in supporting contractor when council clearly differed — should have been relieved of duty."
At another point, she also noted in the evaluation that "everything is an emergency and urgency creates distress."
And while her answers to the city manager have been answered in a timely manner, Trammell notes that she has received negative comments from citizens and businesses that Ustick cannot be reached and is always out of office.
She also writes that there are problems with the relationship between the city manager and the city staff, saying there is a lack of staff oversight.
"Staff is expecting oversight and not getting it; so they are being criticized by council and public and losing the desire to work for her," she wrote.
While some of the council made very specific notes, not all took that route and only checked yes or no. Councilmen Foreman, Marler and Williges gave the city manager more votes of confidence than they did criticisms.
For Councilman Jim Wood, there were a handful of achieved marks, as well as not achieved marks.
As part of his evaluation of Ustick, Wood suggested that the city manager “consider” a few items moving forward. He suggested Ustick be mindful of her style and perception both inside the walls of City Hall and outside in the community; hold employees more accountable for their actions; and work harder to research and obtain grant funding due to the city’s limited budget.
Overall, Wood said that Ustick has done a good job.
The city hadn't budgeted for a cost of living increase into the FY2013 budget, and a merit increase for the city manager was not considered. Her pay will remain at $119,000.