RIVIERA BEACH, Fla.-- It’s almost been two years since three Riviera Beach council members fired Jonathan Evans “for cause, for misfeasance,” without ever explaining why.
“I will never forget that day,” Evans said on Friday.
Now, 660 days later, Evans is back in his old position. On Friday he walked through the building, greeting employees and residents.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Evans said.” A lot of emotions. A lot of excitement. It’s like Christmas.”
Many things have changed in the city since then. Most notably, all council members who voted to fire him have been voted out of office.
In the days after his firing, the city has gone through turmoil. From secret meetings, to recall petitions and several lawsuits.
Evans said his number one goal is to bring the city together and move it forward. There are several issues he wants to address: Improving its failing buildings, fixing the low morale from employees, and hiring new staff to fill the many interim positions.
For the last year Evans had been employed as Madeira Beach’s city manager. The city said he left there “on a high note” and even proclaimed July 9, 2019 to be “Jonathan Evans Day."
So why come back to Riviera Beach?
“Because I believe in this community,” Evans said. “When I watched what this community went through, from the recall petitions to the employees reaching out to me, there was a genuine compassion, and sense of community that I hadn’t experienced anywhere else.”
Has he ever learned the reasons as to why he was fired?
“No, I never got that answer,” Evans said.
Former Councilwoman Dawn Pardo said she voted to fire Evans because he pushed for privatization.
“Privatization is the furthest thing from my mind,” Evans said. “It’s not what I want and it’s not what the board wants.”
The regular city manager’s office is closed due to a mold infestation, in itself a symbol that work needs to be done.
As we were walking to his improvised office at the Public Works building, Evans is stopped by residents on the way.
“My favorite city manager is back,” Madelene Irving said.
Although he had much support from the community, there are those who don’t want him back.
“I want to meet with them,” Evans said. “I want to have a conversation with them. Let’s work together.”
Today, Evans said, felt like coming home.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else,” Evans said. “I want this to be my last city manager job.”
A lawsuit is still pending by two former council members who are saying he should not be allowed to be city manager of Riviera Beach again.