By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(Oct. 3, 2019) Anyone looking for Berlin’s Managing Director Jeff Fleetwood would most likely find him in town around 6 a.m.
After his morning walk and a cup of coffee, Fleetwood is at his desk by 6:30 a.m. starting his usual 12-hour day.
“Quite frankly, the way I do my job … is I feel that you need to be involved, hands on,” he said. “It’s just the way I was brought up. That probably comes from the military.”
Fleetwood, a career Army man for roughly two decades, said it was during one of his tours that his commanding officer gave him some advice that he continues to follow every day.
“The mission comes first, the men come second – the employees — and me, comes last,” he said.
He said it’s part of his management style, adding that it’s crucial to gain the “trust and respect” of town employees.
“That’s the way I’ve always try to operate,” Fleetwood said. “You say what you mean.
“I want to believe, and I always have said this … the number one asset to any organization are the people that have hearts that beat, the employees,” he said.
Fleetwood’s employment with the Town of Berlin has taken a couple of turns since he signed on as its human resources director in 2010. In 2017, he was promoted to managing director. He said that those duties include human resources, working on specialized “ad hoc” projects and with department heads, as well as meeting with businesses and residents.
Fleetwood said department heads would often talk to him about proposals and ideas before formally pitching them to the town administrator.
Fleetwood also assumed the responsibilities of the public works department after its director, Jane Kreiter, retired earlier this year.
Fleetwood told Mayor Gee Williams and then-Town Administrator Laura Allen that “my plate’s full,” but added, “I’m going to give it my best.”
He said his duties mostly stayed the same, but he was unable to give equal time to the electric utility and water resources departments “because I only have so many hours in a day.”
Allen was fired on Sept. 16. Town officials couldn’t comment on the circumstances behind her departure, but Williams said he and Fleetwood would split the town administrator’s duties until the vacancy is filled.
“I can tell you … the last eight business days, this human being’s been very busy,” Fleetwood said. “But I’m not complaining; it’s the nature of the beast.”
In his capacity as acting town administrator, Fleetwood said department heads would formally report to him and he would deal with the “direct day-to-day operation of the town.”
How he found himself in this position is via a circuitous route. After getting out of the Army in the mid-1990s, Fleetwood went on to work as a human resources director for an express division of US Airways for several years. Once he learned his position was being relocated elsewhere, he moved onto working at Perdue’s corporate offices in Salisbury. The company downsized in about 2003, and Fleetwood decided to change careers once again.
He became a schoolteacher in Delaware. He taught Jobs for Delaware Graduates, a program dedicated to preventing dropouts for at-risk youth, in Indian River and Laurel school districts.
It wasn’t until he received a phone call from Wayne Evans, the current human resources director for the Town of Ocean City and a former colleague of Fleetwood’s at Perdue, that his course was set for where he is now.
“He called me up one day and said, ‘Jeffrey, do you like your job?’ Yeah,” Fleetwood said. “‘Do you love your job?’ [Evans asked]. And I paused, and he’s the one who suggested I put my name in the hat for the Town of Berlin.”
Fleetwood’s duties may have increased throughout his tenure working for the Town of Berlin, but it’s something he said he continues to enjoy.
“I absolutely love working for this town. I do,” Fleetwood said.