Residents and colleagues were able to write notes to Tom Harmer on notecards at his retirement party.
Photo by Lauren Tronstad
Former Town Manager Tom Harmer made his final trip to Longboat Key Town Hall Monday, opting to walk to give him the opportunity to soak in the town and reminisce on his career.
Dozens of town staff, residents and colleagues from surrounding jurisdictions stopped by Town Hall to congratulate Harmer on his retirement and thank him for his years of service.
The celebration, which lasted about two hours, provided time for everyone to connect with Harmer, his wife, Dee, and one another — and to reflect on his five years serving the town.
On Monday, Harmer attended his final Town Commission meeting as an aid to now Town Manager Howard Tipton.
Originally, Harmer was set to retire in December, but he agreed to stay on when Tipton wasn't able to start until Jan. 30. In characteristic fashion, Harmer said a smooth transition in leadership was more important than him adhering to his planned end date.
Following the meeting, he and his wife will be making the drive to Winter Garden, where he will be spending his retirement with his sons and grandchildren.
Along with refreshments, town staff put together a sign with messages from members of staff wishing him well in his retirement.
“Congratulations on everything you have achieved both while serving the citizens of the Town of Longboat Key and Sarasota County,” a note from Special Services Director Carolyn Brown said. “You have exemplified everything extraordinary in a town manager and county administrator, including incredible dedication, leadership and professionalism.”
People who attended the meeting were also able to write personalized notes to Harmer before placing them in a box that were given to him at the end of his party.
Assistant to the Town Manager Susan Phillips compiled a list of the challenges Harmer faced with her during their six years working together, including peacocks, coyotes, red tide, COVID-19, hurricanes, pickleball and 178 commission agendas.
"I assure you, the office was never dull – we went from coyotes to (COVID-19) pretty quickly among so many other surprises that are part of the job," Phillips wrote. "He was always adaptive and addressed every issue with good outcomes. We had a fun and very constructive five years with Tom and achieved a lot of great things for our community."
“I hope you take pride in knowing you left things better than you found them,” Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons wrote in his note.
Commissioners took the first portion of their Feb. 6 meeting to formally wish Harmer well, and all of them expressed gratitude for projects he oversaw and communication between citizens and the kind of town government that he fostered.
Specifically, under Harmer’s management, the town posted monthly "Talk of the Town" videos to keep citizens updated on town projects and activities. The annual citizen satisfaction survey also began during his tenure.
Following his formal recognition and a standing ovation from audience members, Harmer described feeling “humbled, honored and fortunate” for his 45 years in public service ending on the barrier island. He said he garnered some interest from other municipalities when they learned of his retirement, but after working on Longboat, he knew this would be his last place of employment.
"I have no interest in working anywhere else," Harmer said. "If I did, I would not be leaving the town."