FL: Lee Feldman, City of Fort Lauderdale, City Manager

Posted on January 12, 2014

 Lee Feldman Becomes ICMA President

Fifty Nifty Takeaways

What do we hope to learn from this series? We hope you will gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of local government in each state, we hope you will learn that there are others like you who are motivated to make a difference through the public sector, and we hope you will learn that it is best to learn from others’ mistakes than yours.

Our Take on Florida

The 50 Nifty has landed in Florida (or better known by the younger generation as Flo Rida).  Many of us have traveled to Florida for either college spring break, the Dayton 500, or a trip to Disney World with the kiddos.  Home of the “hangin’ chad”, Ricky Martin, the college football national champions, and a quickly expanding population of  Burmese pythons, you can also find St. Augustine the oldest city in the United States

Florida is the 22nd most extensive, the 4th most populous, and the 8th most densely populatedof the 50 United States. The state capital is Tallahassee, the largest city is Jacksonville, and the largest metropolitan area is the Miami metropolitan area.

Florida has 67 counties. Some reference materials may show only 66 because Duval County is consolidated with the City of Jacksonville. There are 379 cities in Florida (out of 411) that report regularly to the Florida Department of Revenue, but there are other incorporated municipalities that do not. The state government’s primary source of revenue is sales tax. Florida does not impose a personal income tax. The primary revenue source for cities and counties is property tax.

Illinois and New York often come to mind for corruption cases but Florida has held its own with 800 federal corruption convictions from 1988 to 2007, more than any other state.

KSC_GatewayToSpaceSince the arrival of the NASA Merritt Island launch sites on Cape Canaveral (most notably Kennedy Space Center) in 1962, Florida has developed a sizable aerospace industry.

Another major economic engine in Florida is the United States Military. There are currently 24 military bases in the state, housing threeUnified Combatant Commands; United States Central Command in Tampa, United States Southern Command in Doral, and United States Special Operations Command in Tampa. There are 109,390 U.S. military personnel currently stationed in Florida,contributing, directly and indirectly, $52 billion a year to the state’s economy

Now that you’ve had a quick primer on everything Florida, let’s check some of the interesting laws in the state.

Miami: You cannot use a whistle on a bicycle

Miami Beach: Skateboarding is not allowed at any police station

Satellite Beach: Persons may not appear in public clothed in liquid latex.

Seaside: All houses much have white picket fences and full-width, two-story porches.

Tampa: It is illegal to eat cottage cheese on Sunday after 6:00 P.M.



Awards: City Manager of the Year – 2006 – Florida League of Cities

Education: Washington and Lee University BA, Public Policy and University of Pennsylvania MGA, Government Administration

 Connect: LinkedIn and Twitter

Background Check on Lee

Lee R. Feldman, ICMA-CM, was appointed City Manager for the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in June 2011.

Prior to his appointment as Fort Lauderdale City Manager, Mr. Feldman was employed by the City of Palm Bay, Florida, where he served as City Manager from October 2002 through June 2011.

He previously served as the City Manager of North Miami, Florida, from May 1996 to October 2002, and as the Deputy City Manager beginning in 1989. Mr. Feldman’s career also includes serving as an Assistant to the City Manager and Assistant City Manager for the City of North Miami Beach.

Mr. Feldman is a graduate of Washington and Lee University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts. He earned a Master’s Degree in Governmental Administration from the Fels Center of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he is a graduate of the Senior Executive in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

downloadMr. Feldman previously served as a Vice President (Southeast Region) of the International City and County Management Association (ICMA) and as President of the Florida City and County Management Association. He is a past recipient of the Florida League of Cities’ “City Manager of the Year” Award.

His numerous professional affiliations include serving as chair of the ICMA Sustainable Communities Advisory Committee, as a member of the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency National Advisory Council, and a member of the National League of Cities Steering Committee on Public Safety and Crime Prevention and Advocacy. Mr. Feldman is a past chair of the National League of Cities’ City Futures Panel on Public Finance, a past chair of the International City and County Management Association’s (ICMA) Governmental Affairs and Policy Committee, as well as a member of the Association’s Task Force on Community Tools for Ending Racism.

Mr. Feldman teaches newly elected municipal officials the principles of finance and taxation in Florida and is frequently called upon to speak to professional groups on a variety of municipal issues.

Background Check on Fort Lauderdale

Connect: Twitter, Twitter (Mayor)World Wide Web

Fort Lauderdale is named after a series of forts built by the United States during the Second Seminole War. The forts took their name from Major William Lauderdale, who was the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort.

Fort Lauderdale has a Commission-Manager form of government. City policy is set by a city commission of five elected members: themayor and four district commission members. In 1998, the municipal code was amended to limit the mayoral term. The mayor of Fort Lauderdale now serves a three-year term and cannot serve more than three consecutive terms. The current mayor is John P. “Jack” Seiler. He succeeds the longest serving mayor, Jim Naugle, 1991-2009. Administrative functions are performed by a city manager, who is appointed by the city commission. Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Department provides Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

Dave-Thomas-Quotes-1Fort Lauderdale has an official program for designating and recognizing neighborhoods. Under the Neighborhood Organization Recognition Program, more than 60 distinct neighborhoods have received official recognition from the city. An additional 25–30 neighborhoods exist without official recognition, although the city’s neighborhood map displays them as well.

Fort Lauderdale Notables

  • Chris Evert, professional tennis player
  • Marilyn Manson, musician
  • Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s
  • Michael Irvin, football player
  • Niki Taylor, model

Lightning Round

images (1)

Best piece of advice from your parents. Never stop trying.

 In a dream world, which bands would headline your retirement party? Only one – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to…….live.
Three most influential books in your life.
  • Theodore Roosevelt – An Autobiography
  • Profiles in Courage
  • Deep Economy

If you could FaceTime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), who would be on the list?

  • Henry Kissinger
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Robert F. Kennedy
  • Robert Moses
  • George Patton

Describe the inside of your car. Clutter free.  One jacket on the backseat.  Needs a dusting.

What’s the meaning of life? To make a difference in someone else’s life.

Q & A with Lee


Give us three bullet points that best describe local government in Florida.

  • Resource strapped
  • Exciting
  • More trusted than state or federal government

We’ll assume you didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in local government. What was your dream job as a 12-year old? What was your first local government job? How did you end up in local government?

image001My dream job as a 12 year-old was to become a lawyer.  Although, I recently spoke to the mother of one of my childhood friends and she remembers me saying I wanted to be a City Manager.

My first local government job was an intern in the North Miami Beach, FL City Manager’s Office during my first summer home from college.  Ultimately, after four other internships (Lexington, VA; Roanoke, VA; Ridgewood, NJ; and back to North Miami Beach) I became the Assistant to the City Manager of North Miami Beach.

When I arrived at college, it seemed everyone else wanted to be a lawyer.  I decided I wanted to do something different.  My uncle was a former City Manager and I thought it seemed like a good fit for me.

Give us your top three career accomplishments.

Hopefully they are yet to come.

We often learn from our mistakes. Name one or two career mistakes that you have made that you think we could learn from.

Probably my biggest career mistake was relying on information from a department head that was nothing more than hearsay.  I went public with it; found out it was false; needed to make an apology.  Lesson learned: Trust, but verify.

Our experience has been many of our friends, family, and neighbors are not well versed in what it is we do in local government, many think we are a “planner” or “mayor”. Has this been your experience?

I often need explain that the City Manager is the CEO of a municipal corporation with the various department heads being equivalent to the vice presidents for their respective disciplines.  That analysis often brings clarity.  Also, after working in this field for 28 years, I have a well-developed respect for planners and mayors and have no qualms with being lumped together with them.

How can local governments better communicate their role in the everyday lives of the community?

 If I knew the answer to that….

We need to understand that we do a really poor job of translating the value of local government to our neighbors.  We have a good story, we just need to learn how to tell it.

Would you encourage your family and friends to consider a career in local government?

In fact, my eldest daughter is now completing her MPA.

tumblr_m0oh08Mq9w1r7j1uoo2_250Hypothetically, if we find ourselves interviewing for a job in front of you, talk about three steps we can take to make a good impress.

You would need to show me that you:

  1. know about the City (and more than just the demographics);
  2. know about me and my style of management; and,
  3. are a creative individual who is not afraid of being on the bleeding edge of local government.

Mentoring is such an important part of local government. Name three of your mentors.

  • Buford Whitaker, City Manager of North Miami Beach, for teaching me to stand my ground.
  • Larry Casey, City Manager of North Miami, for teaching me that local government has worked well before we got there and will work well after we leave.

(Complete the sentence) In 2018, local government will be …………more important in our lives than ever before.

What question(s) should we have asked you?


  • Why are ethics so important in what we do?
  • Is there really a line between politics and administration?
  • What is the importance of failure?

Supplemental Reading

50 Nifty Profiles





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