Interim City Manager Tony Delgado this morning attempted to stifle rumors that the city of Lakeland plans to sell Bryant Stadium and said he is still seriously weighing the opportunity to remove the “interim” from his title.
Delgado’s comments about Bryant Stadium came in response to the first question after he spoke to a roomful of community leaders at a breakfast at the Lakeland Yacht and Country Club sponsored by the GrayRobinson law firm.
“Could you address the sale of the historic Henley Field and secondly comment on the rumor that Bryant Stadium is also for sale?” asked GrayRobinson shareholder Stephen Watson.
“I’ll comment on the rumor first,” Delgado said. “Bryant Stadium is not for sale.”
A lot of events are scheduled there that would have to be moved, he said of the venue that hosts Lakeland High School football games. “But more important is the fact that we have a great relationship with the School Board, a great relationship with Lakeland High School, and if ever we were going to go ahead and put it on the block, we would be sitting down with them first to talk about how we could make that work in order to maintain that relationship.”
The recent agreement to sell Henley Field to Florida Southern College for $1 million is different, Delgado said, because it’s a “natural progression” of FSC’s 40 years’ playing baseball there and working with the city to jointly pay for upgrades to the 90-year-old facility to maintain it as “a baseball monument.”
Delgado, who was deputy city manager for 15 years, was named interim city manager by the City Commission after former City Manager Doug Thomas announced he was resigning Sept. 13 to become a consultant.
City commissioners agreed to Delgado’s suggestion that his first few months as interim manager be considered an audition for city manager so that he, the elected board and the community at large could determine if it was a good fit.
Asked this morning how he felt about the job two months into the audition, Delgado, 54, said, “I am buoyed by the fact that the community wants to move forward in many different ways and with that in mind I am seriously thinking about the opportunity. I think we still have a little time to evaluate it.”
During his prepared talk, Delgado talked about his 15-year “apprenticeship” in the City Manager’s Office and his efforts in his new position to make city government more efficient, emphasize customer service and improve communication.
Among other things, he said city staff is looking for user-friendly technology to give citizens more input into next year’s budget, perhaps with a tool that would let people model different combinations of services and revenue.
Delgado said he is concerned by persistent comments that it’s hard to do business with the city. “That’s not really the case,” he said, but city employees need to better communicate the process of reviewing projects and why certain decisions are made.
In addition, he said, the city has done a lot to become more efficient but has not done as much as it should to communicate its accomplishments. “We don’t pat ourselves on the back very well … We need to get the word out that your city team is working diligently to make Lakeland a better place.”