Q+A with Beau Falgout, interim city manager of Palm Coast.
Twelve years ago, Beau Falgout was hired as a planner by the city of Palm Coast, and, within a week, his director was fired. In September 2018, another boss, Jim Landon, was fired, and this time Falgout was appointed interim city manager to lead the staff. Now Falgout wants the job permanently, and his application received top marks from the City Council.
I met with Falgout on Feb. 1 to learn his approach to management. I also learned of his love of golf and especially of soccer (he was a referee for several years to help pay for college). The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Q. You were a successful referee for several years, and you even got to officiate a Major League Soccer game once. Do you see any connection between being a referee and being a city manager?
A. I learned more about communication and dealing with people on a soccer field than I did in school, to be honest. You’re faced with competing sides, and there’s a lot of conflict. In a City Council setting, there are going to be multiple sides to an issue, and you’re not going to make everybody happy, but hopefully at the end of the day, everyone respects how you handled it.
Q. What are good things you learned from Jim Landon?
A. One thing I admire was how he was able to manage a pretty big recession and maintain a pretty positive organizational culture even though we hand layoffs. His ability to communicate and focus on the future was impressive. Then, of course, the way he built a team environment, and that’s something I believe in as well.
Q. Do you see yourself as a Landon protege? How would you be different?
A. It’s a pretty simple view of the world to think that if you work with someone you’re a clone of someone. I’m a completely different person. I'm 38 years old; I have a young family. Did I admire and pick up some leadership traits from Mr. Landon? Of course, but I’m a different person, come from a different part of the country, have a whole different set of experiences.
How am I different? That’s for others to judge. I can just say what I am.
City Council made a change for a reason.
I am definitely open to engaging people on a personal level. I’m OK with conflict, as long as we can manage it and be respectful, and I’m really focused on the future of where this community is going, because I have a young family myself.
Part of the difference in my style is that I want to put the staff forward to answer questions because they are the experts in that area.
Q. As city manager, what happens if you disagree with a decision made by City Council?
A. If they hire me, it’s to give my professional opinion, and as long as they’re open to hearing that opinion, I would move forward with their decision. I feel like my job is to help them have all the facts, make sure to include the public in their decision-making process, and give them options.
If it’s something morally or ethically illegal, that’s a different case. It’s still their decision, but I may not be here very long. Not to say that I’ve felt any of that, but with any supervisor/manger/director, if you’re not willing to hear out people’s facts, you’re probably not in the right role. I have to do the same with my staff — I haven to listen to them. And hear them out. It’s not to say that everyone will be happy — just like on a soccer field — but if you’re not open to hearing people, it’s not a good thing.