Linda Miller and Sarah Johnston will keep their jobs as Surfside’s interim town attorney and interim assistant attorney, respectively, for six months.
Both were named to the interim posts during the Jan. 15 commission meeting after former Town Attorney Lynn Dannheisser vacated the position. Miller had been Dannheisser’s assistant since 2008. Johnston has served as law clerk for the town the last three years.
In a special commission meeting held Tuesday night to find a replacement for Dannheisser, the commissioners unanimously approved keeping Miller and Johnston for the short term rather than finding an immediate permanent replacement. The commission felt that it was best to maintain the status quo given several upcoming construction projects in town and the need to find replacements for the town manager, who is retiring in April, and the public works director, who recently left his position.
Miller pleaded her case to the commission from the opening.
“We have a great working relationship with town employees and members of the administration and the commission,” Miller said of her and Johnston’s knowledge and experience with town matters. “We’ll be here to aid in the transition of the new town manager and the new public works director.”
The commissioners all agreed that having an in-house attorney was preferable to hiring an outside firm as a permanent solution.
“We can hire an outside firm when it becomes necessary to do so,” said Vice Mayor Michael Karukin.
Commissioner Michele Kligman echoed the sentiments of her colleagues and added that Miller and Johnston have “a great deal of institutional memory and knowledge of the town and that is very important.”
Commissioners decided that discussion of salary details for Miller and Johnston will be taken up during the next commission meeting on Feb. 12. Commissioners also decided to formally hire Johnston, who has been working as a contract employee.
Before joining Surfside, Miller was an attorney in Washington, D.C. from 2006-2008, where she reviewed and analyzed filings for regulatory compliance for investigations by the Department of Justice, the SEC, and other agencies. Before that, she was a partner with the law firm of Gilbride, Heller & Brown in Miami. She practiced litigation and supervised associates, clerks, interns, paralegals and support staff. Before that, she was a solo law practitioner in Miami from 1994-1996. She concentrated on commercial and health law matters. She received her doctorate from the District of Colombia School of Law in 1991.
Johnston, who has served as law clerk and assistant attorney with the town since 2009, became a solo law practitioner in 2011. She has represented defendants in employment disputes and has co-taught a land use law course at St. Thomas University School of Law. She received her doctorate from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2010. Before becoming an attorney, she studied and received bachelor’s degrees in urban planning and public administration from Rutgers University and University of Central Florida, respectively.