City of Delray Beach Public Information Office
City of Delray Beach
July 23, 2012


Delray Beach City Manager Announces Retirement

July 20, 2012:  David T. Harden, City Manager for the City of Delray Beach, has announced his retirement after twenty-two years of service. Mr. Harden made his announcement during the July 17, 2012 City Commission Meeting and reflected on a few of the numerous accomplishments from the past two decades that helped to revitalize Delray Beach from a struggling community in the early 1990s to the professionally managed, vibrant community it is today.

During his tenure, the renewal and redevelopment efforts under Mr. Harden's leadership have distinguished our City as a model for growth management and innovative practices, both of which have helped Delray Beach to be considered one of the premier communities in Florida and around the country. In addition, Mr. Harden, with the support of the various elected officials that he has worked with, is responsible for developing a strong and professional management team that has worked together to create an organizational culture that promotes customer service and innovation. This change in culture and stability with the City Manager position has led to the City being able to offer the highest levels of services and programs to our residents, businesses and visitors and develop the City as great place to live, work and play.

Over the years, David Harden's efforts have contributed to the City earning numerous accolades locally and nationally.  Some of the awards and recognitions that the City of Delray Beach has earned during his tenure include: The only two-time recipient of the All-America City Award in the state of Florida (1993 & 2001), The 2011 Florida Municipal Achievement Award - Florida Citizenship Award from the Florida League of Cities (FLC) for the City's innovation and excellence in developing civics educational programs for the Delray Beach community, Certification as a Blue Wave City for our clean and beautiful beaches, and most recently, The Palm Beach County's League of Cities (PBCLC) Member City of the Year for 2012 for the City's excellence in municipal service. In addition, Mr. Harden has been recognized by his professional local government peers around the state in May 2010 when he was presented with the Florida City and County Management Association's (FCCMA) 2010 Award for Career Excellence for his exceptional service in municipal government and the 2010 President's Award for outstanding professional team building and Managers in Transition (MIT) support.

Mr. Harden's retirement announcement from the July 17th City Commission meeting is provided below:

"Over the past year I have had occasion to reflect back over the now more than 22 years I have served Delray Beach as its City Manager.  Having grown up in Okeechobee and worked in the Orlando area for 18 years, we did not want to come to South Florida for a variety of reasons.  However, God closed every other door and opened this one.  This was where He wanted me and my family. 

It has been my privilege to work with an incredible staff, dedicated City Commissioners, and innumerable passionate, involved citizens who love Delray Beach.  During that time we have built or rebuilt four of the City's five fire stations, numerous parks and park facilities, and landscaped medians well beyond what was included in the City's Comprehensive Beautification Plan.  We created a Storm water Utility and have eliminated almost all of the City's flooding problems through the construction of storm water pump stations and storm water retention areas.  Many miles of two inch water lines have been upgraded to eight inches to provide adequate fire protection, not to mention water pressure.  The whole reclaimed water distribution system has been created, water treatment upgraded and sewage collection made much more efficient.  Odor problems have been eliminated.  I used to receive at least one complaint every month about foul odors from some of our lift stations.  Two particularly challenging project were construction of the Tennis Center and Stadium in less than six months, and the relocation of Atlantic High School.  We got the Virginia Slims tournament in July, and had to have a stadium ready for the following February, and we didn't even own all the property for the site.  Both the Tennis Center and the high school relocation were projects that many people said could not be done, but they were.  I could go on but I won't.

This year we will be starting construction on the last two major projects envisioned as part of the Downtown Master Plan, the Gateway Feature and the Federal Highway Beautification.  We are also making significant progress on two other projects, revitalization of the congress Corridor and development of the Family Fun and Fitness Center (Western Community Center), the only Parks and Recreation Bond Issue Project not yet constructed.

With these projects and others not specifically mentioned, we have proven that if a City will invest in itself, private investment will follow.

These physical improvements are noteworthy.  However, there are two other things I am most proud of.  When I came to Delray in 1990, I encountered a lot of "Boca envy".  People were sometime ashamed to admit they had a Delray address.  In fact, one new subdivision just outside our city limits filed suit because they were given a Delray address.  To see that totally reversed is a source of great satisfaction to me.  Now Boca wants to be like Delray.  In fact, as the Commission well knows, Delray is the envy most of Palm Beach County as well as many other cities around the state.  My second source of satisfaction is the change in atmosphere in the southwest and northwest sections.  In 1990 a sense of hopelessness pervaded these neighborhoods.  Some of you may remember that when then Police Chief Kilgore was asked to put foot patrols on West Atlantic he refused, saying that it was too dangerous.  When we started doing community policing in our minority neighborhoods I had a former commissioner from one of our retirement communities call me and ask why we were doing that, saying that we should just let those neighborhoods take care of their own problems.  While many challenges in race relations remain, I find that residents in these neighborhoods are hopeful for a better future.

A few months ago our office staff went to City Oyster to celebrate some birthdays.  As we were leaving the hostess came out and asked if I was the City Manager.  She then expressed her appreciation for the job I had done over the years.  That kind of appreciation is very gratifying to me professionally. 

In November I will be 70 years old.  Considering that, and all that has been accomplished over the past 22 years, I have decided to retire the first week in January of next year.  Of course, as a city there is always much to be done.  I assure you that I intend to finish well.  I will do everything I possibly can to continue moving the City toward the goals and objectives which have been set by the Commission.

At the Florida Manager's conference this year we had a panel of elected officials speak on the city/county manager selection process.  One of the Commissioners from Sarasota County said, I think correctly, that choosing a manager is the most important decision an elected official will make during their time in office.  It is very easy to get off track during a leadership transition, so it is extremely important to proceed in deliberate, cautious manner. 

Cities often go through a cycle where the public gets fed up with the way city affairs are being conducted and they bring about major change, as happened in 1989-90 in Delray.  The change ushers in a period of stability and progress.  But over time memories fade and new people move into the community.  People forget or are unaware of how bad things were in the past and why certain changes were made.  Then the city can easily fall back into the dysfunctional patterns of the past.  This is something Delray must be careful of at this time. 

I am certainly available to assist in any way you may see fit in designing and facilitating the selection process for your next city manager."

David T. Harden, City Manager

For more information, contact the City of Delray Beach Public Information Office at (561) 243-7190 or E-mail

Additional Information about David T. Harden:
David T. Harden was born in Ft. Pierce, Florida and grew up in Okeechobee, Florida.  He earned a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Emory University in 1964, and a Master of City Planning from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1968.  He has worked in the public sector since completing his service in the United States Navy where he served as a Control Division Officer at the Cecil Field Naval Air Station and Supply Officer on the USS Clarion River in Yokuska, Japan.  His career in government began in 1971 as a Planner for Orange County (Orlando), Florida.  In 1974 he became a City Planner in Winter Park, Florida where he rose to the position of City Manager in 1977, a position he held before coming to the City of Delray Beach in 1990.  Mr. Harden will receive recognition from the International City/County Management Association for his 40 years of local government management service.

Mr. Harden's civic activities include serving as Chairman of the Osceola District, Boy Scouts of America - he is a recipient of the Silver Beaver Award, the highest award that an adult scouting volunteer can achieve at the Council Level.  In June 2002, he received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Osceola District, Gulf Stream Council, Boy Scouts of America.  He is a captain in the United States Navy Retired Reserve, an elder of the Soncoast Community Church, and a member of the Rotary Club of Delray Beach.

City of Delray Beach
Public Information Office
(561) 243-7190

City Commission:
Nelson S. "Woodie" McDuffie, Mayor
Thomas Carney, Vice-Mayor
Adam Frankel, Deputy Vice-Mayor
Angeleta Gray, Commissioner
Al Jacquet, Commissioner