When Tony Delgado was appointed interim city manager today, he made it clear he doesn’t intend to be a placeholder. While acknowledging he is indebted to departing City Manager Doug Thomas, whom he called his mentor, Delgado told city commissioners he intends to take an activist role and won’t merely “hold the rudder.”

Initially, Mayor Howard Wiggs suggested Delgado be given the interim position for 90 to 120 days so that the commission could see whether they liked Delgado in the job and Delgado could assess whether it’s a job he wants to stay in.

More coverage: The Ledger

Ultimately commissioners decided not to restrict the amount of time the interim position would last, giving more flexibility for either side to end the relationship early or extend it.

“I see this as an opportunity to place the ‘Tony Delgado’ stamp on some things,” he told commissioners, and added, “It’s a stamp you might not like,” he added.

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Assuming Delgado is comfortable with the job and the commission likes his approach, he could be in place for quite a while. As Thomas pointed out, several issues need to be resolved before a full-fledged recruitment process can start:

  • At least two commissioners will have opponents in the November elections, and any new commissioners won’t be seated until January. It’s unlikely somebody will commit to being the city manager until they know the composition of the board, Thomas noted.
  • The potential for a strong mayor form of government will also affect the recruitment process. The organization pushing for a change in the city charter says a vote on the issue could be as much as 15 months away.

For his part, Delgado says he has no plans to leave Lakeland. “I love this city and I want to move this community forward,” he told commissioners.

Delgado, 54, came to Lakeland in 1997 when he was hired as assistant director of The Lakeland Center. Former City Manger Roger Haar appointed him assistant city manager in 2001, and he was promoted to deputy city manager three years later.

Among other duties, he has been instrumental in labor negotiations.

Delgado becomes the city’s chief administrator after Thomas leaves on Sept. 13 to work for a consulting firm that deals with municipal government issues. He announced his resignation last Thursday and has not yet publicly identified his new employer.

Brad Johnson remains assistant city manager, a job he has held since March 2012.

The City Commission’s vote to appoint Delgado to the interim position was unanimous among the six commissioners present. Justin Troller missed today’s meeting because it was his first day back at work as a teacher at Lakeland High School.

Delgado’s pay as interim administrator has not been set; it is scheduled to be discussed at the next City Commission meeting.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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