Thomas "Ted" Yates is selected as Islamorada's next village manager. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Twinsburg, Ohio Mayor Thomas “Ted” Yates was selected as Islamorada’s next manager during a special call meeting inside Founders Park Community Center on Friday. 

Four council members had Yates as their top choice for the position, which was formerly held by Greg Oravec before he resigned earlier in the year. Yates comes to Islamorada with 12 years of experience in Ohio as the mayor and chief executive officer for the city of Twinsburg’s 19,000 residents. 

“My wife (Sharon) said I can’t believe this is really happening,” Yates said following the selection. “It’s been a long process. It’s allowed us to really look deep within ourselves and the profession I’m embarking on here. I’m really excited about joining the team here.”

In his pitch to the public and council, Yates said the Florida Keys became a special place for his family. He said his family purchased property in Key West back in the 1990s. For 15 years, they’d go on vacation and spend holidays enjoying their home on the island’s gulf side. 

Yates told the Weekly following the selection that the council’s selection shows each member’s commitment to him. Yates said his wife and he have eyed Florida as the next spot in their lives and careers. 

“With my background in the management of cities, I knew this would be a great fit,” he said. “After Islamorada popped up, having spent time in Key West, this just felt right. During the process, my decision became more concrete if I was offered the job.” 

Yates was one of four finalists for the village manager position following a job search that yielded a little more than 60 interested applicants. The village’s hiring consultant, Colin Baenziger, whittled that list down to 12 candidates. From there, the council brought Yates; Lee Staab, former manager of Minot, North Dakota and Grand County, Colorado; Joseph Kerby, Benton County, Oregon manager; and Ted Blackburn, former Islamorada councilman in for interviews. 

Each council member picked their top two candidates for the position. Mayor Pete Bacheler and councilmen David Webb, Buddy Pinder and Mark Gregg each had Yates as their first choice. Vice Mayor Henry Rosenthal had Blackburn as his first choice. His second was Yates. Council members followed up with a 5-0 vote to pick Yates. 

“I was stunned that he (Yates) got four first-place votes. There wasn’t any hesitation. I was very impressed with my colleagues,” Webb said following the meeting.

Councilman Buddy Pinder said he prayed for unity in the council and I saw it happen. 

“I think we worked really well together. And the outcome was spectacular,” Pinder said. 

In conversations, Webb said Yates knew the challenge ahead in the village. He expressed commitment several times that he’s in it for the long haul. 

“I looked at his age and stage in life and his experience, and I guess that the other candidates saw the same thing,” he said. 

Yates said he’s impressed with Islamorada’s staff during his visits. And he understands the challenges ahead with everything from the Fills to planning and zoning issues that the village planning department and director Daniel Gulizio are addressing. 

“The Fills and making sure what we do there meets the lease with FDOT are a hot topic right now,” Yates said. 

Council members chose Rosenthal to lead the contract negotiations with Yates. Webb and Rosenthal agreed that the salary needs to be on the higher end of the salary scale, $200,000, that the village advertised for the position. Webb also said the $2,000-a-month housing stipend given to the last village manager should be higher this time for Yates. 

Yates’ first day is being targeted for July. He said he’ll need about six weeks to transition.

— This story will be updated. 

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Jim McCarthy is a northerner who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since his graduation from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3 years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. Behind every community is resiliency and resolve in difficult times. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim serves as President of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. “It’s a group that lives by the motto ‘Service Above Self,’” he says. “We’ve done service projects at the Tavernier nursing home, sitting down and socializing with residents. “We’ve also supplied cameras to young students exploring the Keys ecosystem.” Jim loves sports, family and time exploring underneath the water depths.