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Town Manager Tom Harmer reflects on his tenure

Harmer's final day with the town is Feb. 6.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. December 30, 2022
Harmer will finish his service of the town on Feb. 6.
Harmer will finish his service of the town on Feb. 6.
Photo by Lauren Tronstad
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Professionally satisfying are the two words Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer chose to describe his just over five year tenure with the town. 

Harmer’s last day with the town is Feb. 6 after a contract extension added an additional six weeks to his previous plan to leave the barrier island Dec. 10. 

"It has been an honor to finish my career here," he said. 

St. Lucie County Administrator Howard Tipton will be moving into Harmer’s role with his official first day set as Jan. 30. 

Looking back 

The road to serving as town manager was an interesting one. One that Harmer had never really considered going down until he was approached by former manager Dave Bullock. 

Bullock had asked Harmer, who planned to retire as Sarasota County administrator, for names of people who might be a good fit. 

After listing the names, Harmer recalls Bullock saying that Harmer had not put his own name out as an option. Harmer explained that it wasn’t something he had ever considered to which Bullock said: “Good, you didn’t say no.” 

That conversation was the catalyst for his decision to make the change and eventually the move out to the barrier island. 

When asked what his favorite part of his job has been, Harmer had no hesitation in saying the community and the support residents have for the town. 

"It's the support that the community gives to the town and the services that are provided," he said. 

He recalled meeting 100 residents in his first 100 days as manager to gauge what the community was looking for from him. 

"They all said 'we like Longboat Key the way it is; you're the new manager, so don't sit here and mess it up,'" he said. 

The relationship between the town, employees and residents played a big role in his enjoyment of the position. 

He provided a list of what he considered some of his biggest accomplishments on the job, which he quickly prefaced by saying were all a team effort and he was not taking sole credit. 

When it comes to finances, Harmer listed the general fund reserve policy, creative funding policies and a reduction of the town's millage rate as some of his largest accomplishments. 

He spoke with pride of being a leader in the town during the bulk of the underground utility project, which is slated for completion mid-2023. 

Other projects he helped oversee include numerous nourishment projects, the groundbreaking for the Town Center Green and its privately-funded stage. 

The north end of the barrier island is now experiencing better phone service after the installation of nine Verizon cell poles, which are still being energized. 

Harmer played a role in seeing through the planning and funding stages for the sea level rise study, neighborhood-specific drainage studies and Gulf of Mexico Drive Complete Streets Corridor Plan. 

Under his management, the town implemented an annual citizen survey to ensure citizens have a way to provide direct feedback to the town on projects, policy and general quality of life. 

With all of that work taken into consideration, Harmer recalls expecting a slower lifestyle when he took the job. However, he was pleasantly surprised with how busy he has been. 

To him, it was important that in his professional life he stayed busy. 

"I have been as busy as I wanted to be my entire five years here," he said. "I like to be professionally- challenged...If anything, there hasn't been much of a downtime."

Looking ahead

As Harmer looks toward his last day on the island and a real retirement, he will not only be leaving the job, but the island as well. 

He has already sold his home and purchased a place in Winter Garden, near Orlando. He is looking forward to being closer to his two sons living in the Orlando area. 

His focus will be shifting from policy and projects to his hobbies of cycling and martial arts. 

He also intends to work with his son, but has no intention of the work becoming his new full-time job. 

"I have no desire to work full-time for another city or county because if I did, I would stay right here," he said. 

Even as he will no longer be involved in the town’s future, Harmer said he plans to keep himself available for any questions Tipton or other town staff may have. He recalls Bullock doing the same for him throughout his tenure and deems it an invaluable resource. 

In his final few weeks, he intends to continue his work the same way he would without an impending retirement. 

After he walks out of his office and town hall for the last time in February, he plans to step aside from his involvement in the town and let Tipton take the reins. 


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