Longboat Town Commission approves his contract as the new town administrator
With the Longboat Town Commission having voted on July 17 to approve his hiring, Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer officially tendered his resignation to the County Commission the same day.
“I have been asked to assume duties of Town Manager no later than December 11, 2017,” Harmer wrote in his letter to the county board. “Therefore, please accept this as my notice that my last day with Sarasota County will be Friday, December 8, 2017.”
Harmer added, “It is important to me that there is as smooth a transition as possible for Sarasota County. The extended notice should assist the Board in determining how it may want to proceed with that process.”
The County Commission began its five-week summer break last week. Its first meeting upon its return is set for Aug. 21.
After conducting a national search in 2011 to replace County Administrator Jim Ley — following Ley’s resignation amid a Procurement Department scandal — the County Commission hired Randall Reid, the Alachua County manager. The county had received 45 applications from candidates hailing from as far away as Everett, Wash., and Newport, R.I.
Reid, who began work in Sarasota County in January 2012, brought in Harmer as deputy administrator in July of that year. Harmer joined the staff in August 2012 at a salary of $150,000.
(Harmer’s annual salary at the Town of Longboat Key will be $187,000, according to the contract the Town Commission approved this week. Harmer’s county pay is $207,625.60, a county spokesman told The Sarasota News Leader last week.)
On Oct. 23, 2013, the commission fired Reid after voicing complaints about a number of issues during his annual employment review. At the suggestion of then-Commissioner Nora Patterson, the board asked Harmer to become interim county administrator. Reached by the commission while he was out of town the same day it fired Reid, Harmer accepted the post. Then, in January 2014, the commissioners asked Harmer to take the job on a regular basis.
In his letter of resignation, Harmer pointed to his pride in a number of county achievements over the past five years. At the top of his list is “Financial Management — Restructuring of the annual budget process. Significant savings through refinancing and refundings, upgrades in ratings from the credit agencies and added recognition from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFAO) for capital budgeting.”
Second on the list is “Customer Service,” with Harmer noting that county residents set a record in 2016, with 60% responding in the annual Citizen Opinion Survey that they “always” or “most of the time” “trust County officials to do what is right for local residents,” as noted in the survey’s Executive Summary. Additionally, 93% of the respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with county services overall; and 94% of respondents said that in their contact with county employees, they had been treated them with respect.
Harmer also pointed to a number of major capital projects completed during his tenure as administrator, including the construction of the Emergency Operations Center on Cattlemen Road, the new Gulf Gate Library on Curtiss Avenue in Sarasota and four fire stations; the improvements to the Siesta Beach Park and the BMX track at the 17th Street Youth Athletic Complex; and the county’s partnership with the Sarasota County School Board to incorporate the new public Shannon Staub Library in the Suncoast Technical College project in North Port.
He further cited his role as lead negotiator with the Atlanta Braves in the effort to relocate the baseball team to a new Spring Training stadium complex planned for the West Villages development near North Port; and the launch of the University of Florida Innovation Station Sarasota County in downtown Sarasota, “which is the first physical extension office of the Florida Engineering Experiment Station, or FLEXStation — an arm of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering that is dedicated to strengthening Florida’s role in the global innovation economy.”