A dream of coastal living has become reality for Longboat Key's new town manager.
| 5:00 a.m. February 1, 2023
A photo of a beach sunset and two chairs has traveled with Town Manager Howard Tipton from job to job over the past 25 years.
It's more than a piece of artwork, now.
The shift from desire to reality was only realized by Tipton and his wife over the weekend as he decorated his new office before his official first day Monday on Longboat Key after making the move from St. Lucie County, on Florida's Treasure Coast.
“I’ve always thought ‘that’s what I am working for,'” he said while looking at the framed picture. “I just never knew what beach it was.”
He has since identified that the beach he used to dream of is now his home on Longboat Key.
He recounted his first day on the job as filled with meetings and learning the who’s who of Town Hall. One of his first day meetings was with Manatee and Sarasota counties regarding the town’s desire for a more unified transit system on the Key.
Final set up is also in the works with the town’s IT department still working on finishing touches to his computer.
“It’s been great,” he said. “There’s energy and excitement and anticipation that’s been building for four months. I’m just really honored to be here.”
While Tom Harmer had the goal of meeting 100 residents in 100 days, Tipton has a similar goal planned with the help of Assistant to the Town Manager Susan Phillips, but no set number in a certain amount of time is the end goal.
In helping him choose with whom to meet, Phillips said her goal was to have him make his way through citizen groups and condominium associations.
Tipton classified Harmer’s presence for his first week as a great resource.
“It’s really been a blessing to have the chance to sit with him and try to get myself up to speed,” he said.
As Harmer leaves his role at the town, Tipton said it is nice to step into the role as the town is already well-managed and residents are generally pleased with the level of service and direction the town is taking.
Prior to taking over as town manager, Tipton worked as the St. Lucie County Administrator, which he says gave him the necessary experience to succeed in his new role.
Harmer served the equivalent role with Sarasota County before coming to the beach community in 2017.
“Some of it’s just intuitive in the sense of the nature of the issue even if it is different or on a smaller scale,” he said.
He added the importance he saw in getting out into neighborhoods to see issues firsthand, whether it be street conditions or storm drains.
“If I’m physically out there, I get a better sense of how the world is than if I sit behind this desk,” he said.
Tipton's contract with the town was approved by the Town Commission on Sept. 12 after Harmer was tasked with finding his own replacement.