The former town manager here has accepted the position of village manager of Islamorada in the Florida Keys and starts Oct. 3.
“It’s a very nice city,” Seth Lawless said, “and I thought my skills and experience matched what they were looking for.”
Lawless, who resigned suddenly at the June 6 Knightdale Town Council meeting citing a desire to pursue other business opportunities, emerged as the top candidate among five finalists for the job in Islamorada, a village of more than 6,000 located on five islands. It was incorporated in 1997. There were 75 total applicants for the job.
“They’re a growing city,” Lawless said. “The issues are a little different (from those in Knightdale). ... Development is certainly a challenge there. There are very few national retailers, so in some ways it’s different.” He also noted that the village is in an environmentally sensitive area.
Lawless will be the sixth manager of the village in 10 years. He said he was not concerned about the turnover rate. “It all comes down to meeting the town’s expectations,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to in any community.”
Islamorada Councilman Mike Forster pointed out that, according to the Florida League of Cities, the average time a municipal manager stays in a job is four years, and the village’s two-year, non-staggered terms for council members contribute to the turnover rate.
Lawless will replace a former finance director who served as manager for two years and will be returning to her finance job. His salary will be $145,000 a year, a jump of nearly $28,000 from his $117,293 annual salary in Knightdale as of Jan. 1.
Islamorada has set a severance package of 10 weeks’ salary if he is terminated without cause on or before his initial evaluation date in April and 20 weeks’ salary thereafter. Lawless received a severance package worth more than $114,000 from Knightdale that included nine months’ pay.
Islamorada is also providing $10,000 in moving expenses, $5,000 in Lawless’ first check and $5,000 upon receiving a positive initial evaluation. He is to reside within 25 miles of Islamorada no later than April 30, 2017.
Lawless had been manager of Knightdale since 2010. He was assistant manager for the town for four years before that. He served for one year as town manager for Nags Head and was manager of Beech Mountain from 1994 until 2005.
David Goodhue of flkeysnews.com contributed to this report.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826