Strike Three

Don't be surprised if you see Steve Shiver's pants on fire -- that's what happens to people like him

Shiver was so proud of this memo he posted it on the county's Website. The over-the-top missive, however, was greeted around county hall with both laughter and derision. One business leader who recently met with Shiver told me: "He's in so far over his head he doesn't even realize it."

Shiver believes his optimism is one of his strengths, but it is forced, artificial, and right now it's all talk, nothing more.

Interacting with commissioners, Shiver is at an even greater disadvantage. Sitting on the dais, he looks more like one of their nephews than their manager. When he speaks, he comes across as a hyperactive child demanding to go in twenty different directions at once, talking when he should be quiet and pouting when things don't go his way.

He lacks maturity, which is painfully evident from his apparent effort to lie to commissioners. He also needs to learn patience. And given how little he knows about running a government, before he starts making wholesale changes he should embrace the physician's creed: First, do no harm.

The commission debate over Homestead Air Force Base offered other insights into the management style of a man whose base salary is $174,000 per year and whose executive perks are worth tens of thousands of dollars more. Like most politicians, he is in love with the sound of his own voice and tends to act more like the fourteenth commissioner than an administrator. Shiver hasn't learned yet that as far as commissioners are concerned, he is not a colleague. He is an employee.

Shiver also appears fearless in telling other people how they should do their jobs, even when it isn't his place to do so. A striking example took place at the March 8 meeting. At one point during the Homestead discussions, commissioners were trying to craft precise legal language for Seijas's resolution. They were directing their questions to Bob Cuevas, an assistant county attorney with 31 years' experience (which means he started at the County Attorney's Office when Shiver was three years old). As Cuevas attempted to answer the commission's concerns, Shiver kept trying to tell him what to say. "You know, Steve, let me do the legal work for the board, okay?" Cuevas finally snapped.

"I thought that's what you were doing, sir," Shiver replied.

"All right, then," Cuevas said. "Let me give the answer." (The county attorney and his staff don't work for the manager; they answer directly to the commission.)

The next day Shiver called Murray Greenberg, senior assistant county attorney, to complain about Cuevas's tone. Greenberg declined to discuss his conversation with Shiver but said all was resolved amicably.

Shiver made another serious mistake during the air-base debate. Prompted by Seijas, he repeatedly referred to Homestead as "my community" and began sentences with phrases like this: "We as the community of Homestead...." He also implored the commission: "If you can realize the frustrations that we have had."

As county manager Shiver now represents the entire county, not just Homestead. Commissioners invited him to speak as the former mayor of Homestead, but it was an offer he should have declined. Once again, though, he couldn't resist an opportunity to speak. At another point he said, "Let me put my manager's hat back on, if I can please separate the two?"

Well, that's a good question. Can he separate the two?

The county commission ultimately rejected Sorenson's resolution and sided with Seijas. Late last week the county filed suit against the U.S. Air Force,the secretary of defense, and the Federal Aviation Administration. Neither Greenberg nor Cuevas could estimate how much the lawsuit would cost county taxpayers or how long it might drag on.

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