There are three words Ray Liggins lives by: predictable, decisive, fair.
“With that,” said Liggins, village manager since 2010, “comes reliability.”
Those three words helped the 51-year-old former village engineer overcome a somewhat rocky start when Liggins was named villager manager after longtime manager David Farber — Liggins’ mentor — died.
The knock on Liggins was that he didn’t have enough experience, even though he worked as assistant village manager for three years (2007-10). The council even considered replacing him and going outside the village to find a new manager.
In his first performance review two years ago, council members Martha Webster and David Swift argued for cutting Liggins’ $166,444 annual salary, Swift said Liggins was more of a “manager-in-training.”
Swift and Webster also wanted to give Liggins a shorter contract, not the five-year deal he sought at the time.
The memory is still a raw wound for Liggins.
“I thought I was doing a great job, but Martha and David didn’t think so,” Liggins said, sitting in his immaculate corner office, arms folded above his head. “I was caught off-guard.”
But the experience taught Liggins, who earns $174,748 annually and manages a staff of 141, a valuable lesson — never underestimate the importance of his relationship with each council member.
“For me to be successful at what I do, I have to be a resource to the council,” Liggins said. “If they stop seeing me as resource, that’s not a good thing.”
Liggins’ latest performance review June 20 went much smoother, with the council agreeing to hire Liggins for another three years.
The council pointed to April’s citizens summit — a town hall-like meeting to hear residents’ ideas on the village’s strategic plan — and the construction of $23-million Commons Park as major successes under Liggins’ watch.
Still, the council said there’s room for improvement, especially on managing capital projects, citing the lengthy delays with Commons Park and road improvements along Royal Palm Beach Boulevard as prime examples.
“I have to communicate more of what’s going on with projects to the council,” Liggins said. “They clearly don’t have the information on the lack of response that we are getting from contractors and how that part is out of our control.”
Liggins’ management style is one of inclusion, where he stresses the importance of everyone working towards a common goal. In recent years, he said, that wasn’t always the case.
“Harmony is important,” Liggins said. “When we decide to work with each other, things get better. When people chose not do to that, things get worse.”
During Liggins’ performance review, Councilman Richard Valuntas jokingly compared the village to the Miami Heat, calling Liggins the village’s LeBron James. As the village’s star player, Liggins knows polished people management skills are essential.
He didn’t always have them, though.
When Liggins was starting out as village engineer, a resident made a complaint to him, although Liggins doesn’t remember about what. But instead of listening and offering a solution, Liggins shot back, “Fine. Do you want your dollar back?” referring to how the resident was paying Liggins’ salary.
“Boy, did that backfire on me,” Liggins said.
Councilman Jeff Hmara said one reason why the council agreed to rehire Liggins is his willingness to learn from past mistakes.
“He has a sincere interest in improving wherever he can,” Hmara said.
Even Webster, now a former councilwoman with whom Liggins has clashed, gave Liggins a glowing recommendation at his performance review.
“He has served us very well and we’re very fortunate to have him,” Webster said.
Despite the missteps and not always having the full support of the council, Liggins said he never second-guessed his decision to take the job.
“I welcomed the opportunity,” he said. “I’ve helped make this village a better place.”