By Tamara G
The City of Hallandale Beach has a new city manager. But not just any city manager, — its first African-American female city manager.
She is Renee Crichton and she has been on the job less than a month but has some huge plans in the works for her city now that she is responsible for its day-to-day operations.
But do not think that she is a newbie at this. Crichton, who received her undergraduate degree from Florida State University and her master’s from Florida Atlantic University, has actually worked in city government for more than 14 years, starting out after graduation as an intern working for Broward County and perfecting her craft on how to run a local government.
However, before becoming Hallandale’s City Manager, Crichton was the Assistant and then Deputy City Manager for The City of Miami Gardens for the past seven years. She also has come, full circle, as they say, having worked for The City of Hallandale previously starting in 2000.
She described her ascent to her new position as a logical next step. “You spend a lot of time being the second in command and the really ‘get it done person’—the person that can really help and advise your city manager on things that need to happen. But then in your career, you need to figure out is this for me? Do I want to have the head chair? After a lot of soul-searching and when this position came up, I decided to put my name in the hat. I felt it was the perfect fit for me. The timing was right,” explained Crichton.
Although most cities and towns have elected officials known as councils and commissions, it is truly the city manager who hires and directs all the employees and makes sure everything is running smoothly. However, Crichton said she doesn’t want the credit. “ I’m a worker bee. I never venture to say that I’m the end-all-be-all. It is the commission that runs the city. It’s the administrators (me) who implement the policy. So I’m an expert at implementing policy, making sure that police are streamline and that they work effectively and efficiently and that my staff is accountable and whatever it is that needs to get done in the community gets done in the best way possible,” according to Crichton.
The new city manager is in an enviable state. She said the City of Hallandale is doing well economically in this recovery, but it is still not a time of plenty, not to mention the fact that no one can tell the future. Explains Crichton: “There are going to be some tough decisions in this economic climate. You’re always going to have to balance that demand for services versus the amount of resources you have and that’s just part of being an administrator. The community is going to want a certain level of services but really, the dollar is what’s going to drive what we can and cannot do.”
Speaking of drive, what is it that motivates her to want to truly succeed in her new position—one in which (according to this writer’s research) she is the ONLY African-American female city manager in Miami-Dade or Broward counties?
Although there were others before her (former Lauderdale Lakes City Manager Anita Fain Taylor was that city’s first Black female City Manager and the first Black female City manger named in Broward County history back in 2003 and Bertha Henry is the first Black female county administrator) Crichton is the only Black female in the two counties currently leading an entire city.<.i>
“Whenever you’re the first at anything (in Hallandale Beach), it makes you want to succeed. But for me, I want to succeed and do well for Hallandale Beach because the commission and the community have invested a lot of time in the process of selecting me as their city manager. What drives me to do well is my desire to do well for the commission and the community. My desire is less about me shining as a professional and more about me implanting the changes and putting in place certain policies to make sure I can get Hallandale Beach to where the commission and the community want them to be in short order,” she said.
Although she said this job never sleeps and you don’t get to hang it up at 5pm each day, in her spare time, Crichton shared she has become some-what of a “foodie”—someone who loves cooking and food. “I like cooking for friends, experimenting with new foods, cooking exotic dishes and I just starting collecting fine wines as a hobby,” said Crichton.
So what is her biggest challenge as the new City Manager of Hallandale Beach? She has an answer for that, explained Crichton: “What is Hallandale Beach going to be in the, next five to 10 years? The community is shifting. It’s diverse, youthful. The old with the new and how am I going to provide leadership to my staff to turn the commission’s policies into reality.”