Robert Cole was selected on Feb. 13 as Islamorada’s next manager. CONTRIBUTED

A month before being selected Islamorada’s next village manager, Robert Cole and his wife, Olga, ventured to the Florida Keys. More than anything, the two wanted to get a feel for what it may be like to live in the upper island chain. 

“I’ll say we’ve really enjoyed our time here,” Cole told the council during interviews on Jan. 17.

Cole’s decision to immerse himself into the Keys community impressed some on the council, including Councilman Mark Gregg, during the final selection process. Following an indecision by the council to pick a manager at a special Jan. 22 meeting, the group of five rebounded by unanimously selecting Cole as the person for the job on Feb. 13. 

“He was here in advance. He met with community members. That’s a hungry guy. That resonated with me,” Gregg said during council discussion over a manger at the Jan. 22 meeting. 

Contract negotiations are underway between the village and Cole, who said he’s excited to get started.

“I’m looking forward to working with the council and addressing the urgent needs of the community,” Cole told Keys Weekly last week. “It’s been a long time in terms of the process and I’m glad it reached its conclusion.  

A seasoned professional, Cole possesses more than 27 years of municipal government experience. He comes to Islamorada following a stint as village manager of Scarsdale, New York, which had a population of 18,200 and a $92 million budget. He began as village manager in 2015 and concluded his time with Scarsdale in fall 2023. He oversaw nine departments during his time and reported to the mayor and council. Cole collaborated with the mayor, the board and staff to develop a mission, vision and values, and implemented a structure to support dialogue between staff and elected officials. 

Before he became village manager, Cole was the deputy manager for Scarsdale from May to August 2015. He was in charge of media relations and led the charge in establishing the first curbside municipal food scrap composting program in Westchester County, New York.

From 1996 to 2015, Cole spent his career at Oak Park, Illinois, which boasted a population of 52,000. From 2010 to 2015, Cole was the assistant manager who oversaw emergency planning and major projects through building permit review and issuance. He was also tasked with implementing innovative environmental sustainability programs. 

Cole recalled a contentious project by the Illinois Department of Transportation to expand Interstate 290 one lane in each direction through the village. He served as staff lead on a project which had the Oak Park community highly engaged.

“When the department of transportation wanted to add lanes to a community with 52,000 people, it turned into a politically tense discussion with state officials,” Cole said.

He also spent time serving as permits supervisor from 1996 to 2004, quality services manager from 2004 to 2006 and assistant to the village manager from 2006 to 2010. Cole attended DePaul University where he received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 1999 and master’s in public service management in 2002. 

Cole has four boys, one of whom attends the University of South Florida in Tampa. Cole’s been married to Olga for 40 years. Cole said they enjoy outdoor activities like fishing. 

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.