PORT ORANGE — A former Destin city manager is moving on up to the east side of the state.
Greg Kisela and the Port Orange City Council agreed to a contract Tuesday night with an annual base salary of $135,000. He plans to start work Monday.
City leaders originally had set a March 1 starting date, the day after City Manager Ken Parker retires after nearly 29 years on the job. But Kisela, 58, requested starting early so Parker could help him make the transition as seamless as possible.
City Attorney Margaret Roberts said Kisela will be hired initially as a consultant and take over as city manager when Parker leaves.
Councilman Bob Ford summed up the sentiments of his colleagues Tuesday night that the five finalists brought different strengths and knowledge, but that overall he found Kisela to be "an impressive guy."
"I'm really happy," Ford said. "It's a great way to start the year."
Kisela was the unanimous selection by the City Council after interviewing five finalists Saturday. Most recently, he was Walton County's administrator, resigning last June after realizing he was not "a good fit." Before that, he was Destin city manager from 2004 to 2011, and Fort Lauderdale's assistant city manager for five years.
He also had almost 14 years of experience as vice president of operations and engineering with a 225-employee utilities company in Miami.
"I think what I bring to you is a combination of public and private skills. Nothing that you have on your plate concerns me, at the risk of being called cocky," he told the council in his interview, referring to Port Orange's current water meter and billing gaffes. "Clearly there are some short-term issues to get our hands around. I think those issues will sort out and take care of themselves."
Kisela said he planned to work with the council on the direction the city should take with redevelopment in the older, eastern side of Port Orange, including the Ridgewood Corridor and Riverwalk. He said he oversaw similar waterfront developments in Destin and Fort Lauderdale, where the public and private sectors successfully worked together.
"The U.S. 1 corridor in many cities is a challenge. One of the concerns that I have is that there is a sucking noise of energy from the east side to the west side," he said. "If you don't balance that out, that portion of the city is going to be in pretty bad condition."
Kisela said a key to success at Riverwalk was making sure regular events were scheduled to draw visitors. Otherwise, he predicted lulls in crowds would exist, especially in the off season, hurting businesses.
"When I got there (Destin) in 2003, they didn't suffer from a lack of planning. They suffered from a lack of implementation of their plans," he said. "You tell me what you need to get done. You share with me your vision. We'll build a collaborative consensus on that and then we'll get it done. I have no doubt about that."
But Kisela acknowledges that experience matters, something he'll seek from others in Port Orange.
"I will never know what you all know about this community. You've lived here in some cases all your lives. I will never have the pulse that you do," he said. "So I'm going to rely on you to give me wisdom and advice on what's going on, because what worked in Fort Lauderdale and Destin may not work here."