Transportation panel picks interim director, rips ‘tortured’ selection process as ‘debacle’

Just seven viable candidates apply for $200,000-a-year job after national search.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Thursday July 21, the full board of the Transportation Planning Agency voted unanimously to hire Valerie Neilson as executive director. Commissioner Maria Marino was absent.

It’s not often that a public-sector job paying nearly $200,000 attracts just seven viable candidates after a national search. It’s even rarer that two of the three finalists are dismissed outright after vigorous, public questioning.

But that’s where the five-member panel selecting the next person to head the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, which oversees billions in transportation projects countywide, found itself Thursday afternoon.

The panel, featuring two north county representatives — Palm Beach Gardens Mayor Chelsea Reed and Palm Beach County Commissioner Maria Marino — waffled between selecting the agency’s interim director, who almost got the job in December without a search, or leaving the agency in limbo for months by reposting the job. 

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Gardens council heaps praise on City Manager Ron Ferris

Palm Beach Gardens City Council makes no mention of city manager’s open-ended contract, signed without public discussion in 2019.

To say that Palm Beach Gardens City Council members are happy with their city manager is an understatement. 

At their most recent meeting, all five council members evaluated longtime City Manager Ron Ferris in glowing terms.

They said nothing, however, about Ferris’ contract, which according to a recent Palm Beach Post survey makes him Palm Beach County’s highest-paid city manager, at $314,487. 

They don’t have to. His contract is open-ended. Unlike his past contracts, which if not extended would terminate after five years, Ferris signed a contract in 2019 that allows him to remain on the job “for an indeterminate term.

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