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Burton tapped to be interim Palmetto CRA head


PALMETTO - Jeff Burton looked content Monday night.

The former city commissioner and vice mayor of Palmetto had just gotten a unanimous vote from the Community Redevelopment Agency's board to take the helm of the troubled agency, something he and CRA Advisory Board chairman Charles Smith had been pushing for.

"The city is ready to move forward. They want to make positive change with the CRA, and they want to make it a transparent and strategic organization and hopefully we'll be able to pull it together for them and give them exactly what they're looking for," Burton said. "I want to make sure there's inclusion in all aspects of the CRA. That's part of the strategic plan is identifying stakeholders, and then trying to bring them all together to learn how they view the CRA and what they believe the CRA should be."

Residents, businesses and anyone who affects or is affected by the CRA has to be part of the process, Burton said. "Everybody included," he said. "It's a team effort."

Smith said he was satisfied. "I feel real good about this," he said.

At the previous CRA meeting, he had pushed hard for Burton to be named then, and he pushed even harder Monday to have Burton named to the interim position so the CRA could get to work with someone in charge.

"Jeff knows the city from east to west and that's what we need right now until we complete the compliance audit so everything will move forward," Smith said. "And now we get to help some residents and get some commercial properties developed and get some residential properties up to grade and get some money to come in here.

"We got a face on the CRA, and I think it's great."

Smith said Burton will start informing people on what's happening. "Factual information, instead of stuff that's not true," Smith said.

"That's what we need, someone who can work with the City Commission and the CRA advisory board and put the proper information out there," he said. "We look to have a community meeting to introduce him to the community and re-introduce the mayor and the City Commission to the community also. We'll let them know that 'We work for you and we want to be good stewards of the community.' "

Board member Tambra Varnadore expressed some concern about the length of Burton's contract and said she wanted to be sure there was an option so that it could be extended. Burton promised to have within a month a list of candidates for the permanent position as executive director of the CRA. In the meantime, Burton will be paid $5,000 a month for the three-day-a-week job.

Burton said he plans to develop a strategic plan for the CRA and assess its situation in the aftermath of recent events.

The CRA board was also supposed to receive an update from Susan Churuti on the status of the compliance audit and decide on a motion to allocate an additional $5,000 to pay current and expected invoices for the audit, but Churuti could not attend the meeting due to a health issue, city attorney Mark Barnebey said, and the two issues have been moved to Aug. 17.


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