FIRED: Jonathan Evans, who was suddenly ousted as City Manager in Riviera Beach, held no grudges in his keynote speech at the banquet for Thrive for a Change.
By DAPHNE TAYLOR
Special to South Florida Times
Jonathan Evans, former Riviera Beach city manager, said Saturday night that he holds no ill-will toward the council members who suddenly voted to fire him last fall, causing an uproar in the city.
Evans, who had been in the position only six months when the council made its sudden move, gave an inspirational speech on Feb. 17 during a banquet for “Thrive for a Change, a re-entry program in West Palm Beach. Tyron Hanna, founder and CEO of the organization, said more people showed up than expected.
Cheers interrupted as Evans spoke about his fate, his future and his staunch faith. Evans based his speech on the biblical principles of faith, hope and love, and as a backdrop used scriptures and inspirational words from noted individuals.
“When they voted to fire me, I thanked the council for allowing me to serve. Could I have said other things? Yes, but I’m not that person. God did what he did to move me into my purpose and destiny,” he said.
Evans began as Riviera Beach’s city manager in March 2017 and was fired on Sept. 20, in a 3-2 vote by the City Council. That vote led to citywide chaos and a resident-inspired recall effort against the three City Council members who fired him.
Evans has accepted the same position in Madeira Beach, Florida. He starts Feb. 26.
Hanna said the circumstances are unfortunate, but that Evans will succeed. “Unfortunately, Mr. Evans is leaving Palm Beach County and it is unfortunate: he is a smart, strong, hardworking young man,” Hanna said, “and I never wavered one bit in my support of him because of that. He is a great role model for our ex-felons and a great leader for our community.
That’s why people stood up for him like they did–and still are.”
The South Florida Times reached out to the three council members who voted to dismiss Evans. Lynne Hubbard, District 1, said she was disappointed in Evans after he came in and supported privatization of various departments. “I thought surely that he would come here and take Riviera Beach where it needed to go, but when I saw what he wanted to do regarding community development, parks and recreation … he started making rumblings about privatization and that the city would be bankrupt in a few years. When I saw what he was doing, I was disappointed. My goal is to preserve the resources we have and to parlay them into a quality of life for the residents of the city, ” said Hubbard.
Dawn S. Pardo, District 4, said she never voted to hire Evans. “When Mr. Evans was hired in February of 2017, I did not vote to hire him. When he was hired, I worked to help him succeed. I began losing confidence in him during the budget process. He proposed: Taxing Singer Island, as a neighborhood Improvement District, to pay for beach re-nourishment, safety prevention, City beach maintenance and neighborhood Improvements; A fire assessment tax on ALL Riviera Beach homeowners; Hiring 24 new employees while stating the city would soon be running at a deficit. He also proposed to me selling the Singer Island fire station land and moving our equipment and staff to Palm Beach Shores. Lastly, he ignored a report from the inspector general. I will not allow any manager to single out a certain group of residents and insist they pay more than their fair share.
For all of the reason above, and others, I supported the termination of Jonathan Evans,” Pardo stated in an email response.
The South Florida Times also reached out to council member, Terence “T.D.” Davis, who made the motion to fire Evans. Davis was headed into a meeting and said he would call back in 30 minutes, but after days, The South Florida Times never heard back from him.
Evans has moved on. “I had it all planned out, but it wasn’t God’s plan. God brought me to a point where I had to let Him work through me. I will follow and will let Him [God] take the wheel,” said Evans in retrospect.
Hanna, meanwhile said Evans was a dynamic guest for his re-entry program though Evans is no ex-felon. Hanna founded Thrive For A Change in 2014 to help former inmates become self-sufficient as they return to their communities to re-start their lives. It provides rehabilitation support in all its forms: housing, jobs, social-skills training and family re-connection. It is also hosting a ‘Stop the Violence’ basketball game on Feb. 24 in Belle Glade. Hanna has also been known to allow some of his clients to stay in his personal home when they had no where else to go. He is also running for Palm Beach County Commission, District 6. To support Thrive for a Change, call: 561-444-0355.