RETRACTION: Needelman 'Knows His Numbers'
In the story below that I wrote about Clerk of Court candidate Mitch Needelman, I wrongly stated that Needelman said he had used an "Invitation-to-Negotiate" process in selecting a company to provide staffing services for the Clerk's office. During our conversation, we discussed a staffing contract, a digitizing contract, and a collections contract. In recounting these discussions for the article, I misread my notes. The Brevard County Clerk of Courts office did not use the ITN process for selecting Source 2 for staffing, but instead requested presentations from several agencies to a team at the Clerk's office.
Mitch Needelman knows numbers.
For over an hour in a recent interview, he outlined in detail how the Clerk of the Courts budget process works. And it is not a simple process. He says he has been able to master the Clerk’s budget because of his years in Tallahassee as a state legislator working with others crafting the much larger state budget.
“I was a cop for years and then it was ‘my way or jail.’ But when I went to Tallahassee I learned how to compromise. Many legislators like the policy side. Policy work is important, but you don’t see immediate results.
“I was fortunate to be in the room – in a small group – formulating Florida’s budget. And with that, you see immediate results,” Needelman said.
And it was immediacy that Needelman felt when he took over the Clerk’s office in 2010. He had run for the office in 2008 and had lost big to incumbent Scott Ellis. After Ellis resigned in 2010, Needelman won the constitutional office. He faces Ellis again on August 14 in the Republican primary.
By his measure, there were budgetary issues that needed his attention quickly. Due to a consistent reduction in state allocations due to poor performance-budgeting predictions, the office faced a potential shortfall of $2.5 million. Needelman had few choices.
”I didn’t want to deny anyone services and I didn’t want to add to Brevard’s unemployment,” he said.
Using an Invitation-to-Negotiate bidding process – one that Needelman says is used statewide by many government agencies – he chose a staffing company to employ many of the state workers in his office and he did some reorganizing. This didn’t make him any friends.
“I reduced the number of supervisors from 80 to 56 by combining some departments. This reduced a duplication of processes. For instance, there had previously been two Finance Departments – one dealing with the state and the other dealing with the county. I made them into one.
“I terminated positions, not people. However, I also broke up some family units who had worked together for years. Many didn’t like that,” Needelman added.
Needelman claims that this move – and others – have resulted in a yearly savings of $1.2 million, much of which has been re-invested to assist all employees – those still employed by the state and those out-sourced.
“We now subsidize portions their health insurance and pay for county holidays. We assist with dental, eye coverage, long and short-term disability and life insurance. And we have planned for the future by building in a potential 15% increase in insurance,” Needelman said.
And despite the hotly-contested upcoming election, Needelman continues to plan for the future of the office.
“I would like to digitize everything. The Florida Supreme Court has recently engaged in an effort to reduce paper and so should we.” Needelman noted a gym in Titusville that is packed with Clerk records dating back to the 80’s and 90’s. “We are still negotiating a contract for these services. This would be an incredible advancement for my office.”
Being the numbers guy, Needelman also is looking forward in the budget as well. “I want the Clerk’s office to be recession proof and we can do this by instituting a five-year plan for budgeting. Also because of our efforts, we are now competitive with the open market in hiring.”
Needelman concluded, “I put my career on the line by ‘privatizing’ the Clerk’s office. But – as of now – the bills are paid and we have money in the bank. I have a vision to continue cutting the budget while maintaining services, returning money to the state and county, and keeping people employed.
“The campaign is neck-and-neck, but we’re working hard so the numbers come our way.”
And – of course – Needelman is a man who knows numbers.