Islamorada Village Hall. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

An agreement lending Monroe County human resources director Bryan Cook to the village of Islamorada as interim manager reaches the 60-day mark on Oct. 6. As the Islamorada council begins its work to determine the next permanent manager, which is expected to take a few months, the county is proposing to send in a different department head to serve the village for another 60-day period.  

His name? Ed Koconis. 

At a Sept. 20 meeting in Key Largo, County Administrator Roman Gastesi informed the board of county commissioners of his plans to replace Cook, who’s served the village since Aug. 6, with Islamorada resident and former village manger in Koconis. Monroe County and Islamorada reached a 60-day agreement for Cook’s services as interim manager. The decision came after the village council elected not to renew a contract with then-manager Ted Yates in July. 

The idea to loan a county department head to the village was brought forth by Gastesi, who’s also an Islamorada resident. Gastesi told county commissioners the switch to Koconis comes as the village still needs assistance. Gastesi told Keys Weekly that the choice to go with Koconis made sense. 

“He lives in the village. It’s an easier commute for him,” Gastesi said, acknowledging Cook’s long drive from his Sugarloaf home to village hall at MM 86.8. “Ed is willing to do it and he wants to help a community he cares about. It’s a temporary thing, and I think it’s a good fit.” 

Koconis served as Islamorada’s village manager from 2010-2014. He was deputy manager from 2005-2010 and served as planning and development services director from 2001-2014. Koconis moved on to Monroe County where he’s spent the last nine years as administrative director of permitting. Koconis said he’d like to remain with the county, but he thinks he could help the village through the transition. 

Koconis said he spoke to county commissioners and a couple village council members about the switch. 

A 60-day agreement with Cook ends Oct. 6, and a new agreement with Koconis could come before the council later this month or early October. Gastesi said he doesn’t expect any major changes to the agreement other than a name switch.

According to the agreement between the village and county, Cook’s entitled to compensation at an annual rate of $248,000 for the percentage of hours he spends working on village matters.

Council members haven’t publicly discussed Gastesi’s plans to change out interim village managers, but the dais will have a conversation on what’s next in terms of an agreement with the county at a Sept. 28 meeting at Founders Park Community Center. The dais will gather for a special land use meeting today at 5:30 p.m.  

Cook told the Keys Weekly on Thursday that the village will have plenty of time to discuss the next steps for an interim village manager before his service ends. He said the council can look at several options, including extending him longer or naming someone else like Koconis. And if they go with Koconis, the council will have the opportunity to decide his start date. 

“I’ve enjoyed my time here at the village and the new colleagues and friends I’ve made,” Cook said. “Everybody here is super dedicated. They believe in the village and they crave stability and direction.

“Just for me personally it’s been rewarding and an honor to serve the residents and the tourists alongside Islamorada’s staff,” he continued.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers 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 he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus 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. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.