Islamorada manager Lawless resigns for health reasons

Bassett will continue to serve as manager

Islamorada village manager Seth Lawless has resigned. CONTRIBUTED

He guided the village of Islamorada through Hurricane Irma in one of his first year as manager. After overseeing operations for almost four years in the village, Seth Lawless has resigned as Islamorada’s manager due to health reasons. 

Lawless announced his resignation verbally last week to Mayor Mike Forster. Details of the exit were worked out in talks with Lawless, Forster and the village attorney, Roget Bryan.

A severance package includes six months health insurance coverage and 10 weeks regular salary, equating to $47,326. Council members were in consensus during an Aug. 20 meeting that the severance package was reasonable.

Lawless has been on medical leave since July 6. Since then, deputy manager and finance director Maria Bassett has taken control of day-to-day operations at the village as the interim manager. Lawless’ resignation took effect on Aug. 21, and Bassett was approved as acting manager through March 2021.

“He (Seth) did a great job while he was here,” Forster said. “He ran into some medical situations and it has gone on for a while now. It’s best we move forward. I wish him the very best.”

In September 2016, the village chose Lawless as its next village manager. He previously served as town manager in Knightdale, North Carolina and consistently had city management positions in the state for more than two decades. Hurricane Irma caused destruction in the Keys roughly a year after Lawless became village manager. The clearing of debris from the village, the rehabilitation of Anne’s Beach and the clearing of canals were among the major projects Lawless oversaw following the storm.

The Keys Weekly reached out to Lawless and is awaiting comment. 

Councilwoman Deb Gillis said small towns like Islamorada depend on the village manager to bring matters forward and keep operations going.

“I’m sorry his health issues couldn’t come around so he could continue with us,” she said. “He did a great job on a lot of stuff for us, particularly the hurricane.”

With Bassett the acting manager, council members agreed to move her base salary to reflect her manager responsibilities since taking over in July. Council also decided to leave the search for a new village manager to next year’s council, with the current members either leaving, terming out at year’s end or running for re-election.

“Maria’s done a great job in Seth’s absence, and she’ll do a good job until the time the new council decides which direction they go in,” Forster said. “I think we’re in good hands. We have all the confidence in the world in her and her abilities.”

Vice Mayor Ken Davis said Lawless helped him in his first year as a council member.

“He advised me and helped guide me,” he said. “I’m sorry to see him go, and there’s no doubt in my mind when he’s fully healthy again he’ll be one of the finest there is.”

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Jim McCarthy is a 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 3-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, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).