Deliberation didn’t take long as the Islamorada Village Council selected Port St. Lucie Mayor Gregory J. Oravec as its next village manager during a June 2 meeting.
Inside the council chambers at Founders Park Community Center, three final candidates gave their pitches and answered pressing questions from the dais throughout the afternoon. The day before, finalists met with village staff and community members for a meet-and-greet at the Jacobs Aquatic Center.
Following a brief discussion on how to go about picking the next manager, a motion made by councilman David Webb to select Oravec, 46, as the village manager was met with a second by councilman Henry Rosenthal. ‘Yes’ votes from Mayor Buddy Pinder and councilmen Pete Bacheler and Mark Gregg made the decision unanimous.
Oravec is a native Floridian who graduated from the University of Miami. Before graduating, he began a career in local government. It’s now spanned the last 23 years and has included appointments as city planner, redevelopment director, assistant city manager and city manager.
Oravec is no stranger to Islamorada. In 1999, he spent some time in the village as an assistant planner.
Elected mayor in November 2014 and again in 2018, he became the first mayor in the city’s history to be re-elected without opposition.
Oravec said he’s looking forward to working with the council, staff, residents and the business community to make Islamorada “better tomorrow than it is today.”
“My family and I are incredibly grateful. We’re excited. We can’t wait to get to work,” Oravec told the Keys Weekly following the meeting. “We can’t wait to get to know the village council, the staff and people of Islamorada as we work hard and smart together on making what’s already a spectacular waterfront community even better.”
Oravec’s family includes his wife, Tonia; children Alexander, Christian, Kaitlyn and Aric. Oravec likes to give back to his community, including volunteering in public schools and the Adopt-A-Street Program. In his down time, he likes to read, fish, surf and garden.
“As a native Floridian who cares about the water and the environment, what place is better than Islamorada? It’s really exciting to join the village,” he said. “It’s a surreal moment.”
A nationwide search for Islamorada’s next manager comes following the resignation of Seth Lawless last summer due to health reasons. Maria Bassett, current finance director, took the helm on an interim basis. Initial recruitment of candidates a few months ago saw just over 80 applying for the position.
From 12 candidates, the list of finalists for Islamorada’s next manager dwindled to five during a May 19 special meeting of the village council. Andrea Agha, Guillermo Olmedillo, Oravec, Terry Suggs and David Baird were selected as finalists. Baird withdrew his name from consideration on May 21.
Oravec said he wants to share his passion with a community he called a “special place” and an “incredible waterfront village.”
“Through communicating with the public and staff through council, we can build something we can make you proud of,” he said. “We are small and mighty.”
Contract discussions will start “as soon as possible,” Pinder said. He pointed to Oravec’s experience and his achievements in Port St. Lucie as among the deciding factors in choosing him as next village manager.
“It was probably one of the most important decisions — if not the most important decision — in our tenure on council,” Pinder told the Weekly following the decision. “I called city councilwoman Jolien Caraballo from Port St. Lucie and she gave very top remarks. Just the way he handled questions of strategic planning and going into the future 10 to 20 years. … We’re in for a great ride here.”
The village council next meets on Wednesday, June 9 at 5:30 p.m. at Founders Park Community Center.