Staffing Changes As Mayor Pushes For Change In Culture At City Hall

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
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During his campaign for Mayor, Vince Lago expressed his desire to change the culture at City Hall.

Residents had long been voicing concerns over some members of staff’s lack of respect and lack of responsiveness to their calls and emails.

At the last Commission meeting, in a unanimous vote, the Commission approved a new Code of Conduct for staff addressing some of these resident concerns.

However, since Lago taking office, the City has started to see staffing changes. Some via resignations, some via retirements and some via termination. The changes have come from the clerical level all the way to department heads.

Public Services Division Director

Brook Dannemiller was the City’s Public Services Division Director in Landscape Services. Dannemiller had long been bumping heads with residents over the department’s lack of protection of the City’s tree canopy. In 2015, Dannemiller had opined that the City’s oldest live oak tree on Lisbon street had less than two years of life left and should be cut down, a move that would have benefited a developer who sought to tear the tree down in order to build three homes on a single lot. Residents on Lisbon Street fought the decision and with Lago’s help save the tree and secured two lots for a pocket park (Lisbon Park). Dannemiller resigned in May and has been replaced by Deena Bell Llewellyn.

Assistant Public Works Director for the Sustainable Infrastructure Division

Jessica Keller was the City’s Assistant Public Works Director for the Sustainable Infrastructure Division. Keller was a proponent of growing the City’s bike lanes and sidewalks, an agenda that often conflicted with the desires of residents who lived in the affected areas. She had numerous heated exchanges with residents, including a public one at a City bike path meeting on Alhambra Circle with residents of the street who opposed the project. The Commission voted against the project that had little support from the residents on the street. Keller was terminated by City Manager Peter Iglesias in June. Keller’s position will not be filled.

Assistant Public Works Director for the Solid Waste Division

Al Zamora was the Assistant Public Works Director for the Solid Waste Division. Under Zamora’s tenure the issues with solid waste, garbage pickup and recycling pickup grew exponentially. Residential bulk waste and recycling pickup would sometimes be a week delayed. Staffing issues, poor fleet management and management in general led to increased resident complaints over trash and recycling pickup. Zamora retired in August.

More Changes Coming

Sources at City Hall inform Gables Insider that more changes are forthcoming as the City seeks to improve on its customer service and its performance on its official duties.


14 thoughts on “Staffing Changes As Mayor Pushes For Change In Culture At City Hall

  1. I’m also glad to hear there is a new approach expected from City employees. A few years ago I called the head of a department multiple times without receiving a call back, until I called the City Manager’s office. Unfortunately he is not one of the terminated, yet! Many calls to City employees/departments are not answered; with luck you may get a call back when you leave a message.A neighbor’s house was under construction for 4 plus years with empty holes attracting mosquitos and who knows what every time it rained. I called multiple times and got a little action (temporary emptying of the holes) but they have been allowed to have an eyesore/health hazard construction site for years. On another subject, the time has passed when employees are paid crazy pensions–enough!

  2. Shame on Coral Gables for scrapping the Alhambra Circle project for sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths and more. The modern way of planning streets is to make them accessible for all users. Hopefully, Rhonda Anderson can work with others to promote needed improvements.

  3. Katherine Newman, wow strong words for someone that was appointed by Commissioner Anderson (just recently) to the Coral Gables Retirement Board- General Employees. Good thing these boards don’t really mean anything and they are just used to keep problem residents quiet.

  4. The failure of the Bike Lane Project in Coral Gables is extremely disappointing. It seems the residents don’t care about the safety of bicyclists.

  5. A great article and great comments. With Mr. Lago and Rhonda Anderson, things are really getting done. Good riddance to Dannemiller, an overpaid bureaucrat bent on NOT helping us get get trees, to the point of lying. Bell was equally arrogant, but we will see. The city has promised gumbo limbo trees on our rapidly eroding swale in Gables by the Sea for over 2 years and NOTHING has been done. An investigation into building and zoning is long overdue. There is only one contractor in the area who can get permits, because he says “he knows all the right people” at the city. Everyone else waits years. There is another house in my neighborhood that has been totally gutted- not a permit in sight. Someone is “looking the other way”. Anyway, it is good that the city is finally paying attention to all the abuses of power, and just plain lack of courtesy and willingness to do the job- despite the high pay and even richer benefits. I am sure all the people who left are living large on the taxpayers money. We pay an additional 50% of their salaries into the pension plan and it is still woefully underfunded to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

  6. The city has had recent political changes that are beginning to be reflected in a change in attitude for city personnel who were not really paying attention. There are positive changes beginning. .It will not all happen overnight, but many are trying to live up to the reputation we’ve ad for many years. Be patient, but be alert to help those who would help – do so.
    If you haven’t yet, read Alva Moore Parks book, “George Merrick – Son of the South Wind” – get the hard copy. It has the real story of Mr. Merrick and his dreams for all of us. Alva had access to sources far beyond those of most people and tells us things that many have never known. It is a very real education in the wonderful beginning of our city. Read it

  7. NYU reported that almost 70% of news reported on Facebook was not accurate or true. You likely fall into that percentage too.

  8. Horray Mayor Lago !!!! Time to clean house. Code Enforcement needs an overhaul starting from the bottom. Please stop the abusive power and underhanded tactics implemented by CE – coaching neighbors to tell, and what to tell, on each other. No more Neighbors Telling on Neighbors! The 1st step is finally being implemented – no more anonymous complaints. Please continue cleaning Code Enforcement. We want to live in a peaceful community with our neighbors.

  9. Shame on the opponents of the Alhambra bike path extension! I used to bike to UM on Alhambra until I wound up in the ER at Doctor’s Hospital. Jerks from South Gables who are pissing in their pants and anxious to get home, allied with other jerks, who live on Alhambra side streets, and with some on Alhambra who don’t have sidewalks and want to pretend they have big front yards, to selfishly endanger cyclists. Poor, out of shape people, with expensive fast cars, pretending to be rich, or who suffer because they live way down south, or don’t have much yard on Alhambra are at fault. People who do not exercise & see others bike or jog, so it bothers them and they hit the gas pedal. There are evil people among us. South Miami even implemented bike paths with medians. Praise to South Miami, shame on the Gables!

  10. Half the battle is getting rid of the dead wood; the other half of the battle is replacing them with competent professionals, who respect the city’s residents.

  11. Good riddance to all those employees that left because of this new Code of Conduct requirement, and kudos to Mayor Lago for this initiative. I’ve been a resident of Coral Gables for over 30 years, and my experience in the past in dealing with City employees has been awful. Their lack of responsiveness was deplorable. You’d think that we work for them instead of the other way around. However, I must say that I have been dealing with Ms. Deena Bell-Llewellyn, Public Service Division Director, lately on some issues in our neighborhood, and she has been wonderful. She has been very responsive and conducts herself in a very professional manner. I must also say that my experience in requesting services from the City through the City’s App – for missed garbage pick-ups, etc., – has been great. I highly recommend it.

  12. I agree that the city is not responsive to its citizens. I requested assistance in May for some work to be done at my street trash area. Damage was done to it by the continual picking up of yard debris by the city’s clamshell device on their truck servicing my area. I’ve called several times, but the time has long passed when I was told the problem would be resolved. I’m still waiting.

  13. Hoping these positive changes continue and that the current Pension Plan for ALL City employees is also reviewed, as it is NOT SUSTAINABLE. We cannot continue to have City employees retire and receive their FULL PAY at the taxpayer’s expense!

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