ISLAMORADA COUNCIL BACK TO SQUARE ONE WITH VILLAGE MANAGER’S DEPARTURE

Outgoing Islamorada Manager Greg Oravec speaks to Councilman Mark Gregg and Councilman Buddy Pinder following a Jan. 11 special meeting. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Islamorada Village Manager Greg Oravec’s resignation has a familiar face returning to acting manager duties and a dais searching again for the right candidate. 

Citing a lost appetite for the political dynamics that go with the job, Oravec tendered his resignation on Jan. 10 — roughly six months into the job he started in July 2021. A day later, Islamorada council members were left shaking his hand and thanking him for the time after accepting his resignation during a special meeting. 

With Oravec leaving, village Finance Director Maria Bassett will take the reins as manager on an interim basis until the dais hires a new person. Bassett served as acting village manager from August 2020 to June 2021, following then-manager Seth Lawless’ resignation due to health reasons.  

Discussion over the council’s next steps will be heard during a Jan. 27 meeting at Founders Park Community Center. Oravec, who’s completing last minute projects, remains an employee of the village. He’ll be on the village payroll through the end of March. 

“The village manager is still working with us,” said Mayor Pete Bacheler. “It’s a temporary situation because we accepted his resignation. There are regulatory procedures and legal procedures we have to go through. Our village attorney is guiding us through those requirements.”

Oravec’s annual salary was $169,500 with a housing allowance of $2,000 per month. He also had a relocation reimbursement of $13,500. 

Councilman David Webb called Oravec’s resignation a “complete disappointment.” Webb and fellow councilmen elected to office in November 2020 entered their seats with Bassett leading as acting village manager. With help from hiring consultants Colin Baenziger, the dais was able to whittle some 80 applications to five finalists. Ultimately, they chose Oravec over Putnam County Administrator Terry Suggs and former Surfside Manager Guillermo Olmedillo. Former Key Biscayne Manager and now Gainesville assistant city manager Andrea Agha withdrew her name from consideration before the dais heard from the finalists in early June. 

Recalling the search process, Webb said he went beyond Oravec’s resume to see if there was something the council might be missing. 

“I’m always pessimistic looking at resumes. I’m looking for hidden flaws or somebody not being forthright about something. To the people I spoke with, they validated everything on his resume. The only comments were that if you gave him direction, he was going to aggressively follow the direction.”

Webb said he’d like to go back to the other finalists in the running for the position last year. 

“It is possible between the time Greg started and the end of his resignation that a couple more people are thinking about it,” he said. 

Councilman Mark Gregg, too, called the recent resignation disappointing. Gregg said the council will need to discuss how they want to proceed with filling the village manager position. 

“I hope the public doesn’t lose confidence in the council and staff. We’re competent to operate the village,” he said. “When you hire the top seat and it doesn’t last a full year, you tend to scratch your head and wonder why. The takeaway is it’s better to make change early on when you know change is coming then try to stick it out that might not work in the long run.

“I feel bad for losing Greg,” he continued. “I really held him in high regard. He is a man of great integrity and great esteem.”

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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.