Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi MONROE COUNTY/contributed

Roman Gastesi, the Monroe County Administrator for 15 years, announced on Feb. 8 that he will retire at 5 p.m. Feb. 23, earlier than county officials had expected.

Gastesi has been in the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, or “the DROP,” since 2019, so county leaders knew he would be leaving sooner than later.

But Gastesi’s retirement decision comes at a time when the Board of County Commissioners is grappling with how to respond to Florida state leaders about the Keys’ hurricane evacuation plan – a decision tied to the number of building permits that could be made available. At the same time, Keys residents are increasingly concerned about environmental, workforce housing and quality of life issues.

“We’re on the precipice of a major move,” County Mayor Holly Raschein told Keys Weekly on Thursday. “He’s on the administrative side of things, which is a critical component.”

The county administrator carries out the day-to-day operations of the BOCC and oversees 26 county departments.

At their Feb. 21 meeting in Key West, the BOCC will consider a resolution appointing another Keys government veteran, Assistant County Administrator Kevin Wilson, to serve as the acting county administrator. 

Wilson has been with Monroe County since July 2006.

Gastesi, who lives in Islamorada, has no plans to leave the community, county spokeswoman Kristen Livengood said in a statement. He does plan to travel this summer including a trip to Brazil to run a marathon.

“I have nothing but respect and friendship for Roman,” Raschein said. “He puts our community first and his passion and commitment to the Keys is second to none.”

Gastesi, known as affable and accessible in his role as county administrator, started with the county in May 2008.

“Through Gastesi’s leadership, the county has abolished FEMA’s downstairs insurance inspection program, purchased Rowell’s Waterfront Park in Key Largo, rehabilitated the portion of the Old 7 Mile Bridge connecting Marathon to Pigeon Key, and created the centralized sewer system,” Livengood said.

“Gastesi also led efforts to establish a canal restoration program benefiting nearshore waters, implement a robust legislative affairs program that has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars coming to the Florida Keys, and started the sea-level rise adaptation program,” she said in a statement.

“Particularly noteworthy are Gastesi’s efforts to finance major capital projects such as the soon to be completed Key West International airport terminal and state of the art emergency operations center in Marathon without using local tax dollars.”

This is a developing story.

Gwen Filosa is The Keys Weekly’s Digital Editor, and has covered Key West news, culture and assorted oddities since she moved to the island in 2011. She was previously a reporter for the Miami Herald and WLRN public radio. Before moving to the Keys, Gwen was in New Orleans for a decade, covering criminal courts for The Times-Picayune. In 2006, the paper’s staff won the Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news and the Public Service Medal for their coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She remains a devout Saints fan. She has a side hustle as a standup comedian, and has been a regular at Comedy Key West since 2017. She is also an acclaimed dogsitter, professional Bingo caller and a dedicated Wilco fan.