New Islamorada Village Manager Gregory Oravec listened intently and jotted notes as the dais discussed various issues, such as wastewater, during a June 3 meeting inside the Founders Park Community Center. The Port St. Lucie mayor who was chosen by the village council earlier this month to be the next manager is ready to go, following unanimous approval of a contract agreement. 

With a July 1 start date, Oravec’s contract details an annual salary of $169,500 and reimbursement of $13,500 for relocation expenses. He’ll also receive a housing allowance of $2,000 per month, which will start during his third month of employment. Other benefits include sick leave and health care that’s the same for all village employees. 

Oravec told council members that he found residence in Lower Matecumbe’s Safety Harbor neighborhood. Oravec is married to wife Tonia. He has four children in Alexander, Christian, Kaitlyn and Aric,

“My family and I are incredibly excited,” Oravec said. “It’s surreal.”

Oravec, 46, told the council members that when he makes a promise, he’s going to “keep it or die trying.”

With Oravec coming in as village manager, Maria Bassett will return to her original position as finance director. She ran government operations as manager on an interim basis since the departure of then-village manager Seth Lawless on Aug. 21, 2020 due to health reasons

With a dais of five new members seated last November, a search for the next village manager started in mid-March. Some 80 applications were submitted to village hall. The list was cut to 12 semi-finalists and then to four finalists. Oravec was chosen unanimously during a June 2 meeting. 

“One of the things I offered during the process was that I can relate because I’m still currently an elected official in the state of Florida, mayor for the seventh most populous city,” he told council before the contract vote. “I know what it’s like to have people and your citizens relying on you. 

“And I put myself in your shoes: How would I feel if a year of my term in office I felt like we were in neutral because we were waiting for our manager to come on board,” he continued. “I want to be here for you and for the staff and the community.”

Councilman David Webb was tasked by fellow council members to represent them to come up with a workable agreement. Talks lasted two days between Webb and Oravec. Village Attorney Roget Bryan and Bassett assisted in discussions. 

“All parties represented the agreement as a commitment from Gregg and his family to our community, and a commitment from this council and more importantly this community to Gregg,” Webb said. “We both have a lot at stake here. We’re both hopeful for the future. I’m extraordinarily confident that we not only made the right choice, that we’re probably going to see things we can’t imagine.”

Mayor Buddy Pinder said Oravec was swift in finding a residence in Islamorada and becoming a member of the community. 

“I don’t think you let any grass grow underneath your feet. You got on this very quickly, getting a place to live and telling us you’re a part of our community very soon,” he said. 

Initial evaluation of Oravec will occur in six months in January 2022, and annual evaluations will occur every July.

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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).