Bob Daniels doesn’t exactly need his new job. He just likes the challenge.
The new town manager of Melbourne Beach settled into his office early last week. At about the same time he and his wife were settling into their new home.
“I just like the challenge of working in municipal government,” Daniels said in an interview with the Melbourne Beachsider on his third day on the job.
Although Daniels’ career has been primarily rooted in police work, most of it in Florida, he also has the chops to run a local government. Initially hired as police chief in 2010, he spent nine months as interim town manager in North Bay Village, a small island community in Biscayne Bay northwest of Miami Beach.
Most recently Daniels, 61, served as an investigator for the Insurance Fraud Division of the state’s Department of Financial Services. He handled white-collar crime cases as well as drug cases involving opioid abuse.
It was in North Bay Village that Daniels got a taste of conflict. Then-Village Manager Frank Rollason fired Daniels, but made it clear there was no dereliction of duty. The two clashed on managerial styles.
Daniels revealed that he was offered the option to resign, but allowed the termination to take place to protect his health benefits at group rates under the 1985 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) law.
The irony is that North Bay Village later turned to Daniels to serve as interim manager. It gave him a chance to hone his managerial skills, helping negotiate a new labor contract, overseeing completion of a major sewer line and a beautification project, and improved communication within the government and the village’s commissioners.
“It’s a constant learning process,” Daniels said.
“You critique yourself. And you learn from it. I don’t have grandiose aspirations for myself.”
High on Daniels’ to-do list in Melbourne Beach is stormwater maintenance. To no surprise, runoff has been identified as a leading contributor to pollution in Indian River Lagoon. Stormwater management, or lack of it, in the town, became a campaign issue in November’s Melbourne Beach Town Commission election.
In fact, Daniels, noted, town commissioners were set to hold another workshop on the topic this past Wednesday with an engineer.
How Daniels got the job is its own story. Privately he was a clear favorite of a majority of the Melbourne Beach commissioners, and as a marathon late November meeting churned into its sixth hour, they publicly declared it was Daniels they wanted.
“Let’s make a decision,” Mayor Jim Simmons pushed his colleagues. “We have a strong town staff. We have a strong building department. Don’t make the best hire for today, make the best hire for the future. I want someone who will find it hard to leave.”
Later that day, Mayor Jim Simmons had a contract sent to Daniels, and the $86,000 deal was completed within a few days. Daniels agreed to the contract without changes, according to Simmons. Simmons has said he wants to end the turnover experienced in the past so Melbourne Beach can move forward.
Hopefully, Daniels is the right leader at the right time to do that. “I feel I’m a good fit here,” Daniels said.