A week after voters rejected Clearwater's massive downtown redevelopment proposal, City Manager Mike Roberto has decided to resign.
Roberto is working on a severance package that would end his three-year tenure Aug. 4, Mayor Brian Aungst said Tuesday evening.
That decision was reached after Aungst invited Roberto to his house Sunday for a talk about the future of the city and of Roberto. Though Aungst acknowledges there is an issue of public trust when it comes to Roberto, the mayor said he did not ask the city manager to resign.
"He came up with the fact that it was time for him to move on for the betterment of his family and the city of Clearwater," Aungst said. "I think right now we need a different approach."
Before he came to Clearwater, Roberto was hailed in North Miami Beach as being able to "walk on water" during his nine years as city manager there.
In Clearwater, however, he frequently found himself up to his neck in hot water.
Roberto, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has taken a public beating over everything from the city's controversial beach roundabout to excessive spending on consultants.
Last summer, city commissioners debated whether to fire Roberto after questions arose about vacation packages, personnel records and spending at a senior staff retreat.
In the end, it appears the downtown redevelopment issue became the final straw.
"He took that pretty hard," Aungst said. "He's a change merchant. He was brought in to change the city."
There were positives during his tenure. Funding was secured for a new bridge linking downtown with the beach. Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard was spruced up. Voters last week approved a new downtown library.
But there always seemed to be detractors, and nagging questions about some of the ways he conducted business.
"Mike is one of the brightest, most creative go-to people I have ever met," said Commissioner Ed Hart. "But I disagree with his management style and have had troubles working with him at times."
Anne Garris, an outspoken critic of city plans to redevelop the waterfront, said Roberto started off his tenure by talking with residents and doing the right things.
Then, she said, something changed.
"He demonstrated that he was really listening to the chamber of commerce more than anyone else and was depending on them to be his guide," Garris said. "I told him that was what happened to other city managers."
The city commission Thursday night will take up the Roberto resignation. Assistant City Manager Bill Horne likely will fill in as commissioners decide how to pick a replacement.
Aungst said Horne, a retired Air Force colonel, will do a good job. The mayor said he wonders whether a national search this year would be logical with the possibility of three new commissioners coming on board in March.
Until then, without Roberto, life will continue.
"We will not grind this government to a halt," Aungst said. "We will continue to move on projects we have on the table."
Rob Shaw can be reached at (727) 799-7413 or [email protected]