Sarasota County Administrator accepts Longboat Manager job

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Longboat Key’s love affair with Sarasota County’s top administrators continues.

Last week, Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer agreed to an offer to become Longboat Key’s next town manager when current Manager Dave Bullock retires in January.

It was only six years ago that the Town Commission parted with then Town Manager Bruce St. Denis after 14 years and lured Bullock away from Sarasota County. Bullock at that time held the Deputy County Administrator position and has been praised universally by the commission for his job performance.

It was Bullock who approached Harmer after the commission decided to target three local potential candidates. Commissioner George Spoll had wished for a larger, perhaps national search, but the rest of the commission instructed Bullock to bring them any top candidates he felt would make a strong successor.

Harmer surprised the Sarasota County Commission at the end of a meeting last Wednesday when he told them he has accepted the Longboat Key offer pending review and approval by the Longboat Key Town Commission.

On Monday, the Longboat Commission will vote on a five-year contract that will pay Harmer $187,000 annually. Currently, he makes more than $208,000 as the Sarasota County Administrator.

Bullock told the commission in a memo that Harmer was the “number one candidate on my list.” He cited Harmer’s skill set in emergency services, as a city and county administrator as well as in the private sector. Bullock also cited Harmer’s regional and state network of relationships as beneficial.

Harmer became administrator for the county in 2014, following scandal and turbulence that bogged the two previous county administrations.


Cannibalizing the county

Longboat Key earlier this year hired Sarasota County Public Works Director Isaac Brownman to replace current Director Juan Florensa who is retiring early next year as well. Brownman worked with both Harmer and Bullock at the county and an integral part of his future duties will be to oversee the $50 million town undergrounding project.

The job offer to Harmer comes on the heels of the Longboat Key Commission studying the benefits of changing its boundaries and eliminating Manatee County from the island and becoming part of Sarasota County in its entirety.

Members of the Longboat Key Town Commission have already met individually with Harmer and following that, the Town Attorney and Bullock prepared the contract that will be considered on Monday.


Contract overview

The relevant provisions of the Harmer contract are as follows:

• A five-year contract starting Dec. 11, 2017.

• Harmer may terminate the contract with 90 days notice and the town may terminate with or without cause with an affirmative vote of five commissioners.

• Starting salary of $187,000 with increases at the commission’s discretion.

• Vacation accrual at the rate of a 15-year town employee.


Harmer’s background

Harmer spent eight years as City Manager of Titusville, Florida, as well as the Executive Director for Community Development and the Fire Chief and Emergency Manager positions. He previously served as Deputy Fire Chief and Emergency Manager in Tallahassee.

Harmer worked in the private sector before coming to Sarasota County as Senior Vice President of The Pizzuti Companies, a national real estate developer. There he managed commercial and industrial projects.

Harmer holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Central Florida and a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Safety and Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati.

Harmer said, “Citizens expect a high level of services. They want value for their tax dollars and the fees that they pay, but they also expect a relatively high level of service. Historically, Sarasota County has been able to provide that.”

Bullock has praised Harmer and told Longboat Key News, “He’s got the right set of values that I believe are a good fit for Longboat Key. He treats people with respect, he is fair and he is very straightforward and honest.”

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