Islamorada Mayor Buddy listens to discussion to reconsider selecting Rob Cole as the village’s next manager at a Feb. 13 meeting. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Islamorada village council members rebounded from their inability to select a permanent village manager at a meeting last month. The council successfully revived a failed motion and approved former Scarsdale, New York manager Rob Cole as the next village manager during a Feb. 13 meeting at Founders Park Community Center.

A motion to reconsider selecting Cole was brought forward by Councilman Mark Gregg. He was among the “no” votes, alongside Mayor Buddy Pinder and Vice Mayor Sharon Mahoney, to hire  Cole at a Jan. 22 meeting despite acknowledging interest in bringing him on. In his comments last month, Gregg said he believed a 5-0 vote was needed to show the council’s full confidence in whoever was going to be selected to the seat, which has been filled by several interim managers per an agreement with Monroe County. Kimberly Matthews, county senior director of strategic planning and libraries, is in the seat per a 60-day agreement. 

Gregg said he received many phone calls from village residents who believed the Jan. 22 meeting was an embarrassment due to the council’s inability to select a manager following a roughly six-month search. 

“The summary of comments I got were, ‘You made a mistake, we need to move forward with a manager,’” Gregg said. “The last full-time manager was more than six months ago. We agreed to a process, it’s the end of the process and it’s time to make a decision.

“It’s not about me and what I want, but it’s about people who put us in these chairs to do our job and lead the community forward. Sometimes you have to make decisions when people are unhappy,” Gregg continued.

Councilman Henry Rosenthal and Councilwoman Elizabeth Jolin acknowledged that they, too, received a lot of calls and comments from the January meeting. Jolin attended Florida Keys Day with several village officials last month. Jolin said she heard and felt a strong message from elected officials that what was taking place at the village “has got to stop.”

“I was very uncomfortable with that. I’d like to think we’re doing the best we can, but that message was loud and clear to me,” she said.

Vice Mayor Sharon Mahoney said she liked Cole, but thought he’d be better suited in an assistant manager position and work under Matthews. Mahoney said Cole told each council member he’d be willing to serve in an assistant role. 

Mayor Buddy Pinder wasn’t in favor of reconsidering a motion for Cole as manager. He, too, sided with Mahoney on bringing Cole in as an assistant manager. 

“I wouldn’t mind doing that, especially while we have Kimberly,” Pinder said. “If Mr. Cole is everything and he’s over the top and works well with staff, I don’t have a problem. We can bring it back and vote on it at that time.”

A motion to reconsider a resolution at the Jan. 22 for Cole for manager was approved via 4-1 vote. Pinder was the lone “no.” With the resolution back on the table, the council proceeded to vote 5-0 to approve Cole as manager. Pinder was the last to vote “yes” after a roughly 10-second pause on the decision. 

The village attorney’s office will begin contract negotiations with Cole following the vote of approval. A contract will come back for council’s approval at the March meeting. 

“It’s a two-way negotiation. Our goal is to jump on this immediately and get it brought back,” said attorney John Quick. 

Gregg said Cole is ready to start immediately, so long as he can find a place to live. The current agreement between the village and county for Matthews’ interim manager services ends March 8. The council meets next on March 12.

Jim McCarthy
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.