"The CRA was formed according to Florida statues, and the CRA is going to bring good things to bay county."
That was former Councilman Bill Mathieu commenting on the Community Redevelopment Area more than two years ago. The aim of the CRA, which is managed by the beach council, is improving the look and utility along Front Beach Road. For example, how this Pier Park development best fits in.
The assistant city manager oversees the CRA, which is budgeted at nearly $1 billion over the next 25 years. The position has been vacant for two years, but last Thursday the city council voted 4 to 1 to offer the post to Mathieu.
The one dissenting vote was from Ken Nelson, who says there are a number of reasons for his decision.
"Mr. Mathieu may not be the best person for the job; we may have somebody else, but to not advertise the position, not to hold interviews, I think it's unfair to the voters of Panama City Beach for not getting the best person for the job."
One of the main concerns for Commissioner Nelson is a conflict of interest that he feels arises because Mr. Mathieu is a licensed real estate broker for Beach Boys Realty Inc. on Back Beach Road, just west of SR 79, but there is another glaring issue that he feels raises some suspicion.
"A little bit over two years ago, Mr. Mathieu made a motion at the city council while he was still a councilman to do away with the assistant city manager position, that he felt it was unnecessary, and I'm a little curious what has changed for a position he thought was unnecessary, why does he want that position now?"
If there is a conflict of interest, Nelson says Mathieu would not be able to practice under his broker's license inside the city limits.
Commissioner Nelson also the feels the position is redundant because the current management team is already responsible for overseeing the CRA.