Following the city manager's exit agreement, the board selected Marlon Brown as interim city manager and moved toward making him Tom Barwin’s permanent replacement.
City Manager Tom Barwin will leave his position at the end of the year after the City Commission’s unanimous approval of a separation agreement with its top administrator at a meeting Monday.
The commission selected Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown as Barwin’s replacement, designating him to assume the role of interim city manager once Barwin formally steps down. The board also signaled its desire to have Brown serve as Barwin’s permanent successor, directing the city attorney to prepare an employment agreement for Brown to become city manager.
Barwin, hired in 2012, announced in November his intent to discuss his retirement plan at a future commission meeting. The city released the terms of Barwin’s proposed separation agreement later that month, a deal that positioned him to depart his post on Dec. 31. After he departs, the agreement entitles Barwin to 20 weeks of pay at his full-time salary — a total of $84,880, based on his annual salary of $220,688.21 — and benefits including insurance and a vehicle allowance.
The commission unanimously offered positive feedback for Barwin during his final meeting as city manager, praising him for his dedication to Sarasota. Barwin said he was proud of the work he’s done over the past eight years and that his staff is more than prepared to handle the transition to new leadership.
“I still have a lot of energy, but why not try to enjoy the best place in the world to retire as a retired person?” Barwin said.
Although Barwin repeatedly indicated his departure was voluntary, City Commissioner Liz Alpert suggested there were external factors fueling the decision. Barwin announced his intent to prepare a retirement plan in a memo to Commissioner Erik Arroyo, who said he wanted to place an item on the board’s agenda to discuss the future of the city manager position shortly after taking office in November.
“I can’t tell you how upset I am that this is happening due to people coming in and not knowing what they were doing and not even giving the city manager a chance,” Alpert said.
In a previous interview with the Sarasota Observer, Arroyo said he wanted to discuss succession planning because he had heard from others that Barwin was considering retirement. Arroyo said his desire to discuss the topic was unrelated to Barwin’s job performance and that he appreciated Barwin’s contributions to the city.
“I think he agrees that he’s done his job at the city and that with this new commission, it’s a new, fresh start for a lot of people,” Arroyo said in November.
Following Monday’s meeting, Barwin said he has been planning his retirement for months. Although he said he did not know why Arroyo wanted to discuss the city manager position at a board meeting, he said the timing lined up to make an exit by the end of 2020 logical. Barwin said he felt obligated to stay on with the city this year following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, but following restrictions on local action from Gov. Ron DeSantis, he felt he had done all he could to help the city respond to the health crisis.
Barwin said he felt the city was well positioned to handle a change in leadership, and he encouraged officials to continue prioritizing collaborative relationships focused on quality community building.
“The magic is in working with everybody,” Barwin said.
At least on an interim basis, Barwin’s replacement will be a familiar face at City Hall. Brown has served in the city’s No. 2 administrative position since 2009. Barwin and the commission spoke highly of Brown’s capability to serve as city manager on a permanent basis.
“I don’t need any time to figure out whether he can handle the job or not,” Mayor Hagen Brody said.
Brown said he appreciated the kind words from the commission and pledged to maintain his focus on serving the city, both internally from an organizational perspective and externally throughout the community.
“I thank you for bestowing upon me the honor,” Brown said.