City of Brooksville

The action of the Brooksville City Council and the resignation Brooksville Main Street Executive Director, Natalie Kahler – some obvious questions and hopes

by Sonny Vergara

TO: Brooksville Main Street, Brooksville Vision Foundation, Brooksville City Council & others
RE: The action of the Brooksville City Council and the resignation Brooksville Main Street Executive Director, Natalie Kahler – some obvious questions and hopes

I’ve been on the phone today with some folks and have watched the video of Brooksville City Council’s meeting Monday night, so here are my unsolicited thoughts, however preliminary or unwanted they may be, regarding all that has happened to date and might happen going forward resulting from the City Council’s decision.

First, the Council has made a huge mistake but not in what it did. Because it is a legitimate governing body, it is legally endowed with the rights and responsibilities to make such decisions. And since it was a unanimous decision with very little discussion, it was clearly a decision that all the council members felt confident was the right one to make. The concern is how they went about it and all the unfortunate results that could and might now ensue.

With the departure of the previous city manager, the Council had developed and was following a process to find a replacement. All such processes are generically pretty similar. They’re designed to create a wide enough net that will assure more than one qualified candidate will apply, that each will be thoroughly vetted, that a short list of the most qualified is developed, and from that “A-list” of finalists a single “best” candidate can then be chosen by the decision makers. It’s a proven process followed widely that offers the hiring entity the best chance of finding the best candidate for the job.

The Brooksville City Council was essentially following this well-tested protocol until last Monday night when out of the blue, all the weeks of work by city staff to find a pool of qualified candidates as well as all the efforts of those who had applied and survived the vetting process for the recently vacated city manager’s seat, were summarily tossed aside and a candidate who had not even applied was chosen … unanimously! This, after no more than two or three minutes of discussion before the vote. Sorry, but that just doesn’t meet the smell test. So, what’s going to be the outcome of this totally unexpected, un-agendaed, un-public-noticed action in a legal sense? Was there a Florida Sunshine Law violation? I certainly don’t want to think so, but you have to admit, well, it sure looks funny.

And, what’s going to be the reaction of the business community and the BMS volunteer army to the loss of unarguably the most effective local leader who has marshalled more positive economic development for the city over the last two or three years than the city has had in the last two decades? Will they rally and support her for all she has accomplished for the city and stay the course on behalf of the city’s future going forward despite what has happened and no matter what comes next? Or, is Brooksville Main Street going to be allowed to drift back into the totally unproductive negative atmosphere city managers and Councils of the past have generated toward it? Mayor Bell has assured all of us in a letter this morning (9/20/23) that the cooperative partnership between the City and Brooksville Main Street will remain strong and recently promised contributions to its funding will remain available. Good for him, but will he be successful?

Will the newly appointed city manager be able to carry forward the same positive relationship that Brooksville Main Street was able to create with the former city manager? Does anybody know her background? Did she not even fill out an application and submit a resume before being hired? I’ve heard she doesn’t live within the city. Does she? Did she meet with each Council member and lobby them about herself while she was a member of the staff selection committee instead? Does she meet all the qualifications required by the Council’s advertised job description? Do not misunderstand me here. I am not trying to disparage her unfairly, but how is it that after all the work the staff had completed to bring a qualified list of candidates to the Council, the Council determined she would be the best choice so suddenly after only two or three minutes of surprise discussion? And please spare me the idea that she was so impressive over the last few weeks of her interim position or that her previous performance as grants coordinator was so convincing she could competently execute the duties of a city manager.

So, what can we hope happens with this mess?

>That the City Council will find a way to recover from the mounting suspicion that something purposely hidden from the public eye has played out here. I’m certain each of the Council members is honorable and responsible and this obvious misstep only reflects their collective newness to politics, the complexities of being a City Council member, and learning the hard way how deep the quicksand of seemingly innocent intents can be.

>That the Brooksville Main Street community will keep believing its partnership with the City will remain on the same positive and amazing path it has so successfully set over the last number of years, and stay strong, stay the course and stay together because that’s the only way the city, its businesses and residents have succeeded in the past and that’s the only way its upward trajectory can continue.

>That Mrs. Kahler will never lose her determination to stand for what she believes, as well as her kindness, her respectfulness, her resilience, her creativity, her compassion, her honesty, her loyalty, her open-mindedness, her humility or her deep inner strength to always find a way, and, whether her resignation remains in place or not, that whatever comes next for her there will be nothing but newer and even greater successes awaiting her.


Sonny Vergara