In a surprise move Monday, councilman Dan Allers said the town needs to start the process of finding a new manager. It was the first public statement that some on the council feel it’s time for change. Roger Hernstadt has been the town manager of Fort Myers Beach since 2017 after he left the same position on Marco Island.
Allers, reading from a letter he sent to Hernstadt and town attorney John Herin, said he’s heard from his neighbors and they told him the town is no longer friendly and welcoming. Under town manager Roger Hernstadt those two words have been replaced with fear, miscommunication and frustration, according to Allers.
Allers gave credit to Hernstadt for fixing the town’s financial issues when he came onboard in 2017. However he went on to say that Hernstadt’s management style no longer fits. “We must ask ourselves, is the current perception and reputation of Town Hall what we want to convey to our residents? Or is a change needed in the way we serve the public? Is it our policies and procedures or management?” Allers then asked the council to begin the process of finding a new town manager “that can carry us into the future.”
Councilman Jim Atterholt agreed with Allers saying with the upcoming “renaissance” of Fort Myers Beach, with all the new projects about to begin, a manager with a new skillset is required. “We need a kinder, gentler servant approach.” Atterholdt has often said there needs to be better communication with the community and that falls at the feet of the manager.
The three other council members defended Hernstadt. Vice Mayor Hosafros said she is not in favor of replacing the manager at this time.
Councilman Bill Veach said he supports the town manager. “I think that there are a few people who seem to complain about everything. If they can’t do what they want, then it’s the problem of whoever is applying the rules. Sometimes people don’t get their way.” Veach also indicated that enforcement has been softened by the council and that effort has been led by councilman Atterholt.
Mayor Murphy said the complaints about Hernstadt have more to do with personality than results. “I’m not too concerned about personality. If people are offended I’m sorry they feel that way. He has all of my confidence.”
Hernstadt’s contract runs through 2024. Below is the entire Allers letter…
In 1995 residents fought hard for the right to be heard, to have a say in the direction of Town government by electing representatives that would act in their best interest and in the best interest of the community. As I campaigned door to door for the right to represent our neighbors, I promised each of them, that if elected, I would listen to their concerns and be their voice on the Council.
As they described their vision of Fort Myers Beach, they used words like vibrant, eclectic and friendly. A place where you feel welcomed and wanted. A place where owning a home or business made you part of something special. These optimistic words are changing. Although you still hear vibrant and eclectic, the most important ones, friendly and welcoming, are being replaced with fear, miscommunication and frustration. The place to start restoring this rests on the shoulders of this Council.
In 2017 Council recognized the Town was having financial issues due to serious operational issues with policies and procedures, and a change in management was needed. Roger Hernstadt was hired with the expectation he would apply his expertise and management style to correct the Town’s issues. I believe he has applied those skills and management style to help us in achieving the goal of financial stability. However, after the last year of listening to our friends and neighbors, I no longer feel this management style fits the expectations of what we want from Town Hall. We must ask ourselves, is the current perception and reputation of Town Hall what we want to convey to our residents? Or is a change needed in the way we serve the public? Is it our policies and procedures or management?
Over the years our citizens have elected leaders that have protected the shared vision and goals of the community. We are responsible for ensuring the policy and procedures coming from town hall reflect the needs and wants of the public. It is time to do our part.
I want to personally thank Roger for making his home here, his hard work and applying his expertise to make the Town a better place than when he arrived. However, I committed to listening to our constituents and being their voice, and I no longer feel the vision for the future aligns with the best interest of the community, and a change is needed. So, I ask my fellow Councilors that we begin the process of finding a new town manager that can carry us into the future.