496. New Smyrna Beach City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe enjoys public interaction

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New Smyrna Beach City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe / Headline Surfer®NSB City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe contract provision / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer® photo by Multimedia Editor Serafina Frederick / New Smyrna Beach City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe sets the clock for 3 minutes per speaker during public participation at City Commission meetings. He has a longer lifeline in his job with the backdrop of politics via a provision that gives him extra pay should he be squeezed out.
 
By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla -- City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe, CMC, loves serving the public in a job that at times can be a pressure cooker with the demands of elected politicians, demanding reporters and citizens wanting public records requests addressed.

"It all comes with the job," said Bledsoe, New Smyrna Beach's city clerk since 2008. He's not just a city clerk, but as the acronym, after his name suggests, he's a certified municipal clerk, a designation that shows he's had formal training and has met certification qualifications.

More important to the job security of a city clerk, however, is job security in the form of a contract. 

Bledsoe hit pay dirt two summers ago with a new contract calling for upwards of 20 weeks of severance if canned. 

Back in 2009, when Sally Mackay was mayor, a proposed raise increase for Bledsoe was scrapped because she said, "Now is not the time to be raising salaries with the budget coming up."

Not only was the budget coming up, but so as election season, and Mackay had to deal with the likes of Bill Kolesczar of Bouchelle Island while she, herself, was seeking re-election for a second term.

"People just aren't going to stand for double-digit salary increases," Kolesczar said at the time, adding even car allowances send a bad message when local taxpayers are hurting in a national recession. 

Bledsoe's $49,800 salary in 2009 was scheduled to be increased by $5,200 to $55,000.

Plus, he would have received $75 for a car allowance each pay period -- every two weeks -- and would have been guaranteed six months of severance pay plus gained sick and vacation time, if terminated from employment.

New Smyrna Beach City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe in 2008 / Headline Surfer®New Smyrna Beach Mayor Sally Mackay / Headline Surfer®New Smyrna Beach citizen watchdog Bill Kolesczar / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer photos by Serafina Frederick / Bill Kolesczar, a citizen watchdog and former acting Police Chief in Orlando, was opposed to a $5,200 raise for City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe in 2009, and then-Mayor Sally Mackay, seeking re-election backed off of it. She lost the election any way. Three years later, Mayor Adam Barringer and the City Commission gave Bledsoe an even bigger raise with a $58,000 salary, plus 20 weeks of severance, if terminated.

"People just aren't going to stand for double-digit salary increases," Kolesczar said at the time, adding even car allowances send a bad message when local taxpayers are hurting in a national recession. Bledsoe's $49,800 salary in 2009 was scheduled to be increased by $5,200 to $55,000. Plus, he would have received $75 for a car allowance each pay period -- every two weeks -- and would have been guaranteed six months of severance pay plus gained sick and vacation time, if terminated from employment.

Bledsoe's $49,800 salary in 2009 was scheduled to be increased by $5,200 to $55,000. Plus, he would have received $75 for a car allowance each pay period -- every two weeks -- and would have been guaranteed six months of severance pay plus gained sick and vacation time, if terminated from employment.

But in July of 2012, it was Mayor Adam Barringer who beat Mackay in the 2009 election, who led the way in getting Bledsoe a new contract with a $58,000 salary and 20 weeks of severance, if terminated.

Kolesczar stopped attending the commission meetings three years ago and with far fewer citizens attending commission meetings, there was no static about the contract, which was unanimously approved by Barringer and Commissioners Judy Reiker, Jack Grasty, Jim Hathaway, and Lynne Plaskett.

Hathaway and Plaskett retired last year and two new commissioners came on board -- Jason McGuirk replaced Hathaway as the lone candidate for the seat in qualifying last year and Kirk Jones defeated two other candidate, winning a primary outright with 50 percent plus one vote to claim Plaskett's former seat.

Some of the key municipal players may have changed, but Bledsoe, who this year earns $58,323, remains a constant now in his sixth year.

Bledsoe started on June 5, 2008, replacing the retired Janice Lowry, having previously worked as an assistant city clerk for Titusville. He earned his B.S. in public administration from the University of Central Florida. Bledsoe is married with three children and three grandchildren. He retired from the Florida Guard (1977-2003) with deployment to Kuwait and tours of duty in Germany and South Korea. 

His one and only demand outside the home front is his job, which is multi-faceted in duty and service.

Within the scope of his mission, the City Clerk's Department performs three vital functions:

-- Administering the legislative process;

-- Facilitating Public Participation in governmental processes;

-- Protecting and managing the public record.

Among his core functions as city clerk, Bledsoe lists the following: -- Conducting municipal elections; -- Preparing city commission agendas, minutes, and agenda packets; -- Overseeing appointments to city boards and commissions; -- Acting as official records custodian for the City of New Smyrna Beach; -- Responding to public records requests.

Bledsoe is assisted by administrative specialist Barbara Billings, hired in February 2008, four months prior to his hiring.

The city clerk -- like the city attorney and the city manager -- reports directly to the city commission.

Though the job of city clerk is often fast-paced and very demanding, Bledsoe, 58, of Titusville, said he most enjoys "the interaction with the public."

Bledsoe added, "I like helping them understand the government process."

FAST FACTS: Certified Municipal Clerk

A city clerk certification is a designation obtained through the International Institute of Municipal Clerks after having achieved the required amount of education and community involvement. FACC is an IIMC-recognized avenue to achieve the education needed for the Certified Municipal Clerk and Master Municipal Clerk designations. FACC obtains academy training support from the John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government at Florida State University. IOG staff works closely with the FACC Board, the FACC Professional Education Committee and IIMC to ensure that certification requirements are met, and city clerks can gain their CMC and MMC designations.

Did You Know?

Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967 establishing a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities. Florida began its tradition of openness back in 1909 with the passage of the Public Records Law providing that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are made available for inspection. Exemptions to the public records law include but are not limited to social security numbers, medical diagnosis, and other confidential information. The state of Florida has 67 counties and more than 400 incorporated municipalities designated as cities, towns, or villages. There is no legal difference between the designations.

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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.