“Don’t screw it up,” joked Islamorada’s interim Planning Director Joe Corradino, who was literally on his way out the door Friday and held it open for the village’s new full-time director Ty Harris.
Corradino took the helm earlier this year after Cheryl Cioffari stepped down, along with other planners Brad Stein and Carl Bursa.
Now, Harris will lead the way for the department, with support from senior planners Hank Flores and Craig Southern.
In person, it seems the three have worked alongside each other for years, but this is only the second week in their new positions.
Harris studied law at the University of Miami and said he was No. 1 in his class for land use.
“I figured I should be a land use attorney and not a litigator, and I worked for a few firms in Miami, then moved to central Florida,” said the DeLand native, who then became a development services director. “I had applied in 2012 for the Monroe County assistant attorney position, but I didn’t get it. When this became available, my Keys friends recommended I apply.”
Southern comes most recently from Fort Lauderdale, where he worked for a year. He has degrees in graphic design, anthropology and community regional planning, the latter of which he earned at Missouri State University.
Flores is from Vero Beach, and has an urban planning master’s degree from the University of Florida.
Harris said the biggest hurdle he faces as the new director is “perception.”
“You get out into the community and hear varying degrees of satisfaction with the Planning Department. Perception is reality, so our first task is to change that perception and be responsible to our customers and the property owners of Islamorada,” Harris said. “Once we do that, we’ll change the perception, and they’ll know we’re taking them seriously.”
Other challenges include affordable housing and sea level rise.
“There is nothing else like this in Florida” when it comes to affordable housing, Harris said. “We want to keep encouraging people to want to come this way, not only as tourists but to be part of the community. So if we’re doing our job, more people will want to be here.”
Flores said he enjoys working with people and solving their problems, while Southern said with his combined degrees, the goal is to problem-solve and help shape the community.
Corradino said the department has “all the potential in the world to be the best planning department in Florida,” and he worked closely with Anita Muxo, administrative assistant, associate planner Jenna Lane and planner Megan Rumbaugh until Harris arrived.
“The department is small enough to deliver a hands-on concierge level of service to the customers, and with this new organization, it’s going to be a tremendous asset to Islamorada,” he said. “It’s going to make the rest of the Keys jealous.”
Harris is married with one son, and the family eventually will move to the Keys full time. Southern came to the Keys “flying solo,” while Flores, also single, lives in the village.