Naming request leads to lengthy debate between Oldsmar City Council members

The subject of naming properties in the city recently led to a spirited debate between Oldsmar City Council members.

Oldsmar City Manager Bruce Haddock (l), Leisure Services Director Lynn Rives (c) and Mayor Doug Bevis pose at the USA BMX Gator Nationals event in February 2016.

Oldsmar City Manager Bruce Haddock, Leisure Services Director Lynn Rives and Mayor Doug Bevis at the USA BMX Gator Nationals in February 2016.

The City of Oldsmar is facing a couple of critical losses in 2017, as City Manager Bruce Haddock and Leisure Services Director Lynn Rives will both bid farewell to civic service this year following long and distinguished careers.

In advance of the departures of two men who have played critical roles in transforming Oldsmar from an area afterthought into a burgeoning Pinellas County hotspot, Council Member Jerry Beverland recommended that a pair of city properties—the reverse osmosis treatment plant and a section of Mobbly Bayou Preserve—be named after Haddock and Rives, respectively.

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland.

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland.

While the approval of the Haddock request passed without any discussion whatsoever, Beverland’s idea to name the north support area of the preserve after Rives sparked a lengthy, and at times intense yet respectful, debate over the subject.

“For the last 22 years, or 20 years, thanks to Bruce, his leadership, and Lynn’s leadership, this city stands second to nobody, no city in this state, to our parks our trail system,” Beverland said when the agenda item came up on January 3.

“Ten square miles this city has with three-and-a-half square miles of parks. What city has that? None,” he added, noting Oldsmar also features 10 miles of trails.

“It all goes back to the leadership of Bruce, and I know this, but somebody was out there building those trails, getting grants for those trails and making those trails work. And I believe, with the help of the city council, that this man deserves the recognition of what he has helped accomplish, which has made every one of us look good sitting up here.”

Beverland then made a motion to send the proposal to the Leisure Services Board for approval. But despite making an excellent case in Rives’ favor, not all his fellow lawmakers were on board with his suggestion.

Oldsmar Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel.

Oldsmar Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel.

Acknowledging the situation was “a little awkward and uncomfortable” since Rives was sitting in his usual spot in the Council Chambers, Mayor Doug Bevis opened the issue for discussion, and Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel was the first to jump in with his thoughts.

“I’m a huge fan of Lynn’s,” Seidel started. “I think he’s done an incredible job for the city. Clearly his work as a director has been second to none. We’re lucky to have him and to have had him all these years in this city.”

“But personally, I don’t believe it’s a good idea for us to take this type of action while someone is still an employee of the city,” he continued. “I think having the discussion right now is premature. We can agree to disagree on that. I just don’t think it’s the right time to have that discussion. Not specifically (regarding) Lynn, but really in general.”

Seidel suggested coming up with a policy regarding naming requests, noting the city has had many excellent directors throughout the course of its 100-year history but no precedent had been set for naming anything after them.

Oldsmar City Council member Gabby Mcgee.

Oldsmar City Council member Gabby McGee.

Council Member Dan Saracki expressed support for Beverland’s proposal, saying he felt Rives was “more than deserving” of having the park named after him, however Mayor Bevis and Council Member Gabby McGee concurred with Seidel.

“To Eric’s point…it is true, how do you make the decision?” McGee asked. “Because of course everybody that does a great job deserves potentially that kind of recognition…but who’s to say who should make that determination.”

“To me, it’s difficult to do because we’ve had a lot of directors,” the mayor said while recognizing the accomplishments of current directors Marie Dauphinais (planning and redevelopment) and Al Braithwaite administrative services).

“I mean what would be do for Al, name a calculator after him?!” Bevis joked. “And that’s my thing, how do you put people in a position to say one is better than the other.”

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

At that point, Beverland jumped in and said “but we’re not doing that,” and the mayor shot back, “but in my opinion it is. It is. And I would just agree to disagree with you.”

Shortly thereafter, the council voted 3-2 against the motion, with Beverland and Saracki casting the two “yes” votes.

After the meeting, those involved spoke about the decision.

“I think we have so many outstanding directors and have had, historically, that to distinguish one over the other for that recognition is very, very difficult,” Seidel told Oldsmar Connect.

“I think what currently happens, with names on dedication plaques is recognition already, and the recognition of their contributions is what’s important.”

“One thing we learned is entertaining the idea while the person is still A, employed by the city, and B, sitting in the room, is probably not the arena to have those discussions,” Mayor Bevis said.

After reiterating the decision had nothing to do with Rives many accomplishments, including the creation of Canal Park, the addition of the Environmental Education Center at the preserve and the construction of the city’s world class BMX Supercross track, the mayor said the entire process of naming something after someone was too subjective.

Oldsmar Leisure Services Director Lynn Rives has been recognized for playing a key role in bringing a world class BMX track to the city.

Oldsmar Leisure Services Director Lynn Rives has been recognized for playing a key role in bringing a world class BMX track to the city.

“How do you acknowledge other people who have had similar accomplishments?” Bevis asked.

“Maybe we should have a criteria, but what do you name? What do you do for some people and not for others?”

In response to why the naming of the osmosis plant after Bruce Haddock breezed through without a word of discussion, Bevis said elected, or charter, officials, are different from city staff and employees.

Oldsmar City Manager Bruce Haddock.

Oldsmar City Manager Bruce Haddock.

“Bruce is a charter official, he reports to us,” the mayor explained.

“The success Lynn and all the directors have had over the past 30 years has been because of Bruce’s leadership and the leadership of councils past and present. He’s like the CFO of the company.”

When contacted for comment, Beverland didn’t try to mask his disappointment about the vote.

“I was totally surprised,” he said by phone a few days after the meeting. “I didn’t understand it.”

“I have no idea why they rejected it. It was a contradiction because they voted for it for Bruce. If there’s going to be criteria, then make it.”

With all the discussion focused primarily on one man, it’s fitting that Rives had the final word on the subject.

When asked how he felt about the council’s decision, Rives replied, “That’s their prerogative. I told the person I really wasn’t interested in it anyway.”

“Actually, what I really said was ‘I’m not dead yet!’”

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