By REID TUCKER
It took three rounds of voting to arrive at a consensus, but the DeFuniak Springs City Council voted unanimously in favor of hiring Thomas Carman to the position of city finance director.
Councilmen Mac Work and Kermit Wright, backed up by Councilman Ron Kelley’s pledge to support the board’s consensus pick, made the first motion to offer the job to Carman, the first of two applicants interviewed at a special meeting Tuesday. However, Councilmen Henry Ennis and Wayne Graham opposed, favoring the other applicant, Grace Harrison, meaning the motion lacked the 5-0 vote needed to go ahead. Ennis and Graham then made and seconded a motion to hire Harrison, a move which once again resulted in a 3-2 split vote.
The Council members were able to reach the unanimous decision for Carman, but only after much further discussion in which all five members of the board agreed that either candidate would be more than capable of handling finance manager’s duties. However, the Council’s preference for Carman’s municipal government experience and managerial skills gleaned from a 13-year tenure with the city of Tallahassee’s treasury department was ultimately the deciding factor. A final motion to offer the job to Carman was met with a straight 5-0 vote.
Carman accepted the position at a salary of $70,000, matching that of former Finance Director John McCue, and he will start next week, just in time for next Monday’s regularly scheduled City Council meeting. Carman, who described himself as a man of deep spiritual conviction, at first wanted a few days to consider the Council’s offer, but eventually gave them his final decision, saying that he and his wife had spent time in prayer over the possible outcomes of his interview with the Council.
“My wife and I have very strong faith,” Carman said. “I truly believe this is where I need to be.”
Over the course of the interview, the Council learned that Carman had a diverse professional background, first as treasury analyst for the city of Tallahassee and before that with a Tampa subsidiary of Time magazine as a financial analyst. This mixture of public and private sector experience gave him the goods to check off most of the Council’s boxes, which included customer relations, accountability, the ability to adapt to change, and a deep well of knowledge regarding finance and accounting. The Council members were also impressed with Carman’s philosophy regarding management, which he said boils down to “treating everybody as adults” while still having a good time with other employees.
“I believe in treating everyone as adults and letting them do their jobs,” Carman said. “We’re at work eight hours a day, and that’s probably longer than we spend at home with our families. If you can’t enjoy what you’re doing then nobody wants to show up to work and then nothing will get done. A sense of humor can defuse a tense situation.”
Though Carman and his family currently live in Oviedo in central Florida, he said he will stay with his own parents, who live in nearby Crestview, until the end of the school year when his wife and daughter will move to the Panhandle to join him. Carman, originally a history major before later getting a master’s degree in accounting, said DeFuniak Springs’ historical wealth, along with the opportunity to develop professionally in a long-term career that made use of his skills and experience, were what attracted him to the city and the job of finance director.
After accepting the Council’s job offer, he reassured the board members that he was the right man for the job. “I’m willing to work,” he said. “I’m willing to get the job done right the first time and on time. I will give you 150 percent.”