PLANT CITY – The city is laying off the employee responsible for staging special events after less than a year on the job.
Deanna Hurley’s $45,000 per year position is being eliminated effective Oct. 1, Interim City Manager David Sollenberger said. He said his decision had nothing to do with Hurley’s performance as special events manager.
“She worked very hard. It’s not a reflection on her work and it’s not a reflection on her work ethic,” he said.
Hurley, a former aide to Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, was hired in early January to organize and promote events that would bring visitors into the downtown and the midtown redevelopment area. She helped stage Railfest at the old train depot, food truck rallies in McCall Park and an end of the school year celebration for students in midtown, just south of downtown.
Sollenberger said the promotions weren’t generating the interest he would have expected. He said the position may be worthwhile in about two years, after midtown is redeveloped with homes and small shops. The city will then have something to showcase and lure in more visitors, he said.
Hurley said she understands the job elimination is a budget decision and as a private citizen she will continue to support the city’s efforts to stage events that promote the town. In the meantime, she said she’s continuing to work on her next special event, Girls Night Out, on July 11.
Hurley is planning to go on maternity leave in mid-August, and she said she may not return after the baby is born in light of her pending layoff. If she doesn’t return to work, Assistant City Manager Bill McDaniel will likely take over planning and promoting a Sept. 6 motorcycle ride to benefit the city’s Robert W. Wilaford Railroad Museum in the old train depot.
Hurley said she likely won’t apply if the city re-creates the special events manager position in two years.
Sollenberger is also putting on hold a nearly $1 million plan to extend Wheeler Street from Alabama Street to Ball Street in the midtown area. He said the city needs to hold off on the extension at least until it hires a developer for midtown, an 85-acre mostly commercial area south of downtown.
He expects the city will advertise for proposals from developers in the fall.
The developer of midtown may have different ideas about how to develop the area and the extension of Wheeler may not fit into those plans, he said.
The city will use money saved by eliminating Hurley’s job and postponing the Wheeler Street extension to buy up more property in midtown. The city already owns about 14 acres in the target area.
Sollenberger wouldn’t identify the properties that the city is eyeing for purchase.