The City of St Augustine, the largest surviving municipal government within St Johns County, has reorganized after the retirement of former City Manager John P Reagan, who turned 61 years old on February 2nd. As Historic City News reporters reviewed the documents associated with the inevitable “deck shuffle” that only happens after someone is removed from the organizational chart at a high level of management — a manager, assistant manager, department head, director, or similar — we find that the new city government looks a lot like the old city government.
The mayor and commissioners decided to reject calls for a national search for a new city manager this year, despite deficiencies accumulated under 13 years of Regan’s rule. Himself the subject of criticism by some observers for what they saw as a lack of qualification for the job, the “wink and nod” from his boss, city manager Bill Harriss, was sufficient to stay the efforts of some on the commission who wanted to do an outside search for more experienced, professional talent when Regan was appointed on July 1, 2010.
So, it occurred on Monday, May 8, 2023, at the regularly scheduled meeting of the St Augustine City Commission, that 54-year-old David Douglas Birchim, one of two Assistant City Managers and one of three candidates for the position, was unanimously appointed to replace John Regan as City Manager, effective Friday, June 2, 2023.
Birchim holds a Master of Science Degree in Planning from the University of Tennessee. He is accredited by the American Institute of Certified Planners and the Florida Public Pension Trustee Association. He was promoted from Planning and Building Director to Assistant City Manager to specifically be responsible for overseeing special projects such as land development, affordable housing, legislative funding initiatives, and the resilient shoreline initiative.
“Birchim’s extensive knowledge and understanding of all aspects of the city’s operations and initiatives, his commitment to excellence, and his precise leadership style make him the choice to fill this position,” Communications Director Melissa Wissel told local reporters. “He has 25 years of experience with the City of St Augustine in professional urban planning and public administration, of which 20 years are in a supervisory position. The commission is confident that his expertise and unwavering dedication will enable him to effectively manage the City’s resources, foster strong relationships with the community, and promote a positive and prosperous future for St Augustine.”
Birchim said in a press release earlier this month, that he is excited to work with the City Commission and staff of almost 400 employees to ensure that St Augustine remains a great, historical place, as well as a livable City. He looks forward to building on the City’s past successes and working collaboratively with the community to address the challenges ahead.