PORT ST. LUCIE – A new direction and a better outlook is what Port St. Lucie's newly hired city attorney, the third in as many years, says he plans for the embattled office, with a goal of making it the best in the state.
"I bring a fresh perspective to the city attorney's office as we rebuild it and make it responsive and effective for the needs of council and the city," O. Reginald Osenton said during a Florida Record email interview. "Simply stated, my goal is to make the Port St. Lucie City Attorney's office the best in the state of Florida."
Port St. Lucie's city council formally approved its contract with Osenton during their meeting on July 25, as part of that evening's agenda. Osenton's employment as Port St. Lucie's city attorney will be effective Sept. 1, according to the contract. Azlina Goldstein Siegel is serving as Port St. Lucie's interim city attorney.
Osenton will replace Pam Booker, who was fired this past winter. Booker, with more than 20 years of legal service to the city of Port St. Lucie, had been named city attorney in 2014 after the controversial resignation of Roger Orr. Orr, who had provided legal services to the city for 35 years, abruptly resigned in April of that year after the state charged three city council members with violating Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.
Booker was appointed city attorney the following June. Booker's firing was agreed to during a special city council meeting this past February, during which council members complained of poor legal advice and communications issues. Booker later claimed her firing had been political, according to published reports.
City council then voted to hire a search firm to find Booker's replacement and appointed then Assistant City Attorney Goldstein Siegal as interim city attorney. Ostenton was among seven finalists included on a list issued in May.
"I want to become the city attorney for Port St. Lucie because I am a leader looking for a new challenge," Ostenton said in his application for the position. "And what the city needs is a leader to guide the city attorney's office out of its current chaos. Quite frankly, when I saw the job posting and read the required skills, I kept saying to myself, 'This is me. This is me.' In essence, the city attorney's office is a law firm with one client, and I would run it efficiently and effectively much in the same way I have run my successful law firms. Simply stated, my goal would be to rebuild and refine the city attorney’s office to make it the best in Florida within two years."
During a special city council meeting July 11, council members asked Port St. Lucie Mayor Gregory J. Oravec to negotiate an employment agreement with Ostenton, with assistance from the city's Human Resources Department. Oravec told the Florida Record that Ostenton impressed him early on.
"After evaluating several high quality candidates for the position of city attorney, Reggie stood out to me because he articulated that he wanted our city attorney’s office to be the best in the state," Oravec said. "He shared personal and professional experiences which led me to believe that he had the commitment to excellence, integrity and public service necessary to get the job done. Reggie has won at many different levels in life, and I look forward to him winning on behalf of the City Council and citizens of Port St. Lucie."
Osenton owns his own firm, the Osenton Law Office in Brandon, has been in private practice for 27 years, according to his biography page on his firm's website. Osenton is licensed to practice law in Florida, West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Virginia. He previously was town attorney for Man, West Virginia, and was the mayor of Mitchell Heights, West Virginia. He represented that state's Logan County Board of County Commissioners in various civil and criminal cases that included economic development issues, eminent domain litigation and municipal annexations.
"I am thrilled that city council chose me as its legal counsel, and I look forward to the challenge," Osenton said. "I plan on being a steady hand that helps guide the city through this time of transition, as new city council members are being elected and a new city manager is chosen."
That will be important because a good city attorney is an integral part of running a city like Port St. Lucie, Mayor Oravec said.
"The city of Port St. Lucie is a growing and dynamic city which has many things to be proud of, including being the safest large city in the state, being a city for all ages and all people, and providing the Florida lifestyle at unbeatable value," he said. "At the same time, in many ways, we are just scratching the surface of our even greater potential. If we are to realize that potential, it is critical that the city’s two appointed officials, the city manager and city attorney, lead by example and instill an organizational culture of excellence."