ICMA member Pam Brangaccio serves the city of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she has been city manager since 2009. An eclectic Atlantic Ocean community of 24,000 located in the northeastern region of the state, New Smyrna Beach (NSB) has been named as a best beach town, top surfing town, and top arts town. The city was, at one time, two separate towns, Coronado Beach and New Smyrna. The city celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2012.
Like many local governments across Florida and the United States, NSB has seen its tax base shrink with the economic recession, decreasing 41% from 2009 to 2012 as real estate values fell. “My first budget year in NSB, we had to cut the operational budget by 25%. It was necessary to reduce the workforce by 20%, primarily through our early retirement incentives program and leaving vacant positions unfilled. This in turn caused service level reductions in maintenance operations, police, and fire services. All three of the local government unions in the city worked with my office and the city commission and agreed to ‘stay’ wage increases, roll back other employee benefits, and increase employee pension contributions for police and fire. The city got through the fiscal crisis by working with its employees, unions, and community using priority budgeting methods.”
In the 2013 and 2014 budget years, NSB has seen small increases in taxable values. The citywide emphases have been economic development, both in the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and airport industrial park, and a major annexation campaign; working with Volusia County through a Joint Planning Area Agreement, 100 properties have annexed over the last four months. The city currently has the second lowest taxable millage of 16 cities within the county.
Brangaccio enthusiastically describes the CRA, which was reenergized in 2010 with the adoption of an updated redevelopment plan. Early projects included parks, streetscape improvements, boat ramps, sidewalks, boardwalk, south Atlantic roundabouts, median improvements, city marina, and parking. Incentive projects now focus directly on eliminating blight by providing grants for property improvements ($1.9 million in the last three years), the impact of which has been multiplied 1.5 times through private property investments ($2.9 million). The largest fiscal success of the new program is the new Hampton Inn and Suites on Flagler Avenue. The CRA budgeted $656,607 in incentive dollars that has resulted in a total private investment for a $16 million hotel.
The current CRA area expires in 2015, so the city is working on a blight study for a new CRA to revitalize Highway US 1, and hopes to partner with Volusia County to implement the program.
Brangaccio stated, “NSB is working with the Center for Priority Based Budgeting to provide a long-range fiscal sustainability model for our city commission, as our commissioners want to do more than set unfunded goals for the community. We have strived to link the annual budget to the commission’s strategic planning sessions, as community expectations did not end with our 20 percent budget reduction. We find the December beginning of the year/end of the year annual planning session to be one of the best things we do, as the commission comes off the dais and sets its priorities.”
“Our second issue is also one of communication.” Despite divisions such as beachside versus mainland and varying levels of property value, community members share many common issues: traffic, parking, speeding, code enforcement for vacant properties, future land use and zoning, city capital improvements needed, etc. “However, it is not uncommon for us to have public meetings with few citizens in attendance; we were thrilled to get 20 folks at a recent budget town hall meeting. So we have created a new citizen-based council to tackle common neighborhood concerns and work together on a long-term plan for the city. Development pressures are brewing, so we need a common vision for the city, rather than just staff rewriting the land development regulations.”
Brangaccio encourages aspiring managers to challenge themselves in taking their careers to the next level. A personal example was her risky decision to leave Charlotte County in 2002 after over six years of service as assistant county administrator (including a stint as interim administrator). Staying with the known would have been the easier path – she had worked hard for success and had built a reputation as a solid professional but she was looking to the future. Her journey since then has not been a straight line as she made detours between 2002 and 2009, when she arrived in NSB.
Brangaccio attended her first ICMA conference as a young assistant city manager and got involved in ICMA committees early on in her career. “My participation with ICMA has helped define me as a person and a manager. Get involved, reach out and get to know your local colleagues, and find a mentor.”
“Also, as soon as possible, become an ICMA Credentialed Manager candidate, as the Applied Knowledge Assessment will help you to identify strengths and weaknesses as a young manager. Credentialing goes a long way to answering the ‘added value’ question to the communities we serve. Forty hours a year of new professional reading, conference attendance, webinars, local seminars, etc., is a small investment of our time as managers, but can make a powerful difference in the way we advise our communities and solve issues that arise.”
Brangaccio has been involved with the ICMA Voluntary Credentialing Program since its inception. She was asked to sit in on early planning meetings as the program was first being developed and serves on the Credentialing Advisory Board, which advises the ICMA Executive Board on program implementation and on granting credentials.
A Tampa native and lifelong Florida resident, Brangaccio received BA and MPA degrees from the University of South Florida and has worked for Florida cities and counties over the last three decades. In 2013, she received the Florida City/County Management Association’s Michael J. Roberto Award for Career Development, which is conferred to voting members of FCCMA who have made a significant contribution to the development of new talent in professional local government management (internships, mentoring, etc.).
Brangaccio has served as FCCMA president and on several FCCMA and ICMA committees; received local, state, and national awards; and presented at numerous local government conferences. She also volunteers for several local civic and charitable groups.
She is married to David Brangaccio, an avid sailor with a Morgan 38' sloop who does annual treks to the Bahamas. She also enjoys spending time with family and grandchildren, the three youngest being sisters named Amelia, Maya, and Olivia, who are learning to surf and sail in New Smyrna Beach every summer.