If Ron Snowberger is only acting as Brooksville’s city manager, it’s a pretty good act.
The city’s former fire chief has been a whirlwind of activity since being suddenly promoted to the highest post in city government June 21. When asked what he’s done in his first 30 days, he hardly takes a breath.
“I put a plan into place with objectives that include making progress on our various projects. I’ve spoken with community folks and Hernando County Administrator Jeff Rogers and the county’s economic development director (Valerie Pianta) about our municipal development plans. I also met with the chamber of commerce and communicated with business owners about their needs and working together. Then I’ve done an analysis of each city department and what they’re doing to get me up to speed with their projects and how I can help them reach their objectives. We’ve developed a new Facebook page for our residents to include some of the positives and information that’s progressive…Homelessness is a concern, and we’re looking at possibilities to help with that.
“I’ve had a good time.”
Whew! In one month?
Snowberger, 56, inherited a ship on stormy seas after a divisive city council fired City Manager Mark Kutney in a 3-2 split following a heated debate fueled by a fed-up crowd, most of whom agreed with the result. The firing followed a bureaucratic fiasco that took place when a routine land sale accidentally resulted in Brooksville selling its water tower to a local businessman because staffers relied on an incorrect legal description of the parcel.
The split vote was one of many the council has recorded since new members Blake Bell and David Bailey were elected to the board last fall on a pro-business platform. Another 3-2 split occurred when the council evaluated Kutney’s performance last February and voted to retain him with a 2 percent raise. During the controversy, some observers questioned why Bailey voted to fire Kutney despite giving him high scores on his evaluation, but he defended it by saying townspeople wanted to terminate him.
Moments after Kutney packed up his paperwork and left the dais, the council promoted Snowberger to the acting manager’s post with an 8 percent stipend being added to his fire chief’s salary. The council agreed the permanent position will be filled when time permits, even though Bailey proposed waiting until 2023 to fill the vital post so “the next council” could make the choice.
“I think Mr. Snowberger is a solid individual, and will do a fine job,” Bailey said after the meeting. “If you noticed, he stepped into the middle of the meeting and took over very well and handled a tough situation.”
Born in Fayetteville, NC, his family moved to Florida when he was just a kid. Snowberger’s resume shows he graduated from Mount Dora High School in Lake County in 1982. He then received an associate of science degree in Fire Science from Lake Sumter Community College (2002-2004) before getting his bachelor’s of applied science degree in the same subject at Columbia Southern University in Orange Beach, AL in 2010. Since then he re-enrolled at CSU to get his master’s degree in public administration, one of the preferred programs for government jobs like city manager.
When he wasn’t in class, Snowberger worked as a firefighter in Mount Dora for 28 years by getting state certifications for various jobs in the department, experiential training that gave him hands-on knowledge about saving people and property. His ascension progressed from engineer to lieutenant to captain to fire chief, including a stint as president of the Lake Sumter Fire Chiefs Association; he then served as deputy fire chief in Deland, FL 2011-2017. About a dozen awards and titles from emergency-response groups, education agencies and other organizations are stashed in his trophy case.
“Chief Snowberger is a true servant leader. He leads from the front, sets the bar high, and mentors his officers,” retired Fire Rescue Capt. George L. Thomas said. “Through our years together in the Executive Fire Officer program, Chief Snowberger displayed passion and drive.”
Some folks think the stars were aligned for Snowberger because the city suddenly needed a manager at the same time he was getting his master’s in the very discipline recommended for that position. Fact is, it’s funny how lucky people are when they prepare themselves to be successful.
“Good things happen for whatever reason, and I’ve wanted to get higher education for higher levels of leadership,” Snowberger said. “Also, I try to be content with whatever I’m doing right now.” One example of this drive came when Snowberger was among only a few chosen from thousands of applicants for the demanding Fire Officer Program at the prestigious National Fire Academy in Maryland.
When he’s not working in his office he says caring for his family is his other job. He and wife Katie, a retired nurse, have been married for 36 years; they raised a son and a daughter, along with three grandsons.
When he’s off duty Snowberger is a history buff who enjoys “outdoor stuff,” especially camping and fishing. “I love food,” he admits. Favorites? “Pizza, or a good steak.”
He doesn’t hide the fact he’s interested in becoming the permanent manager. “I love Brooksville,” he said. “I’m humbled and honored to be in this role. I want to bring professionalism to this city and build cooperation and communication both with Hernando County, business groups and community groups. Those three groups are the key for us.”
Rebuilding some of the town’s awful storm water sewer drainage infrastructure is at the top of project priorities. That’s why Snowberger was happy to hear the city just received $900,000 from the Florida Legislature headed to the Public Works and Utilities Department so crews can get to work.
Not that he’s resting. Right now he’s talking with staffers about how to cover for sick employees who are coming down with the Delta variant virus because they work in essential areas where they come into contact with many people.
“We can handle it,” he said. “There’s a lot of positives going on. We’re moving forward.”