Council rejects Allers’ bid to oust Hernstadt
Majority of Fort Myers Beach Council issues support for Hernstadt
Town of Fort Myers Beach Councilmember Dan Allers was rebuffed Monday by the majority of the town council when he called for the replacement of Town Manager Roger Hernstadt.
In a decision he said he was “wrestling with for months,” Allers read a letter he sent to Hernstadt and Town Attorney John Herin Jr. on Friday detailing his unhappiness with Hernstadt’s communication skills. Allers called on the council to “begin the process of finding a new town manager that can carry us into the future” and “finding a replacement for the town manager position.”
Allers did not specify any particular action taken by Hernstadt to prompt his public call of action and actually praised Hernstadt for repairing the town’s fiscal condition, bringing “financial stability” and putting the town in better shape than when he took office in 2017. “I apologize if me reading this is catching people off guard,” Allers said.
Allers said he wants 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.”
After listening to friends and neighbors, Allers said he decided Hernstadt’s “management style does not fit the expectations of what we want from Town Hall” and said “I no longer feel the vision for the future align with the best interests of the community and a change is needed.”
Allers said “my gut was telling me this is the right decision based on the people I’ve spoken with, the people I’ve listened to.”
Allers said Hernstadt was “very good at what you do” but said he “no longer fits with the future that Fort Myers Beach is going to be.”
The repeated mention of the “future” by Allers was not clarified though Hernstadt has been working on a number of projects the town has undertaken from a water main and stormwater line replacement, plans for Times Square, Bayside Park, Bay Oaks, a mooring field expansion and the impending construction and demolition for Margaritaville – which will require town oversight.
Mayor Ray Murphy said Hernstadt has “all of my confidence” and said former political officials from the town had contacted him to issue their support for Hernstadt.
“What he’s done is he has got (the town) on a firm financial footing. He’s managed these projects, brought them in on time, mostly on or under budget and has handled himself very well,” Murphy said.
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said she didn’t support the motion by Allers and neither did Councilmember Bill Veach. Veach said he believed the pressure to remove Hernstadt was from a “few people who seem to complain about everything and think that if they can’t do what they want then it’s the problem of whoever is applying the rules. It’s up to us as the town council to make these rules.”
Veach said the town had taken extraordinary measures in softening up code enforcement – an issue Councilmember Jim Atterholt had raised.
“I support the town manager. I think he is doing a fine job and sometimes people don’t get their way,” Veach said.
Atterholt said he had issues with the handling of a performance evaluation of Hernstadt – which he placed blame on Hernstadt for not leading. Hernstadt said it was up to the council to review his job though he would place his evaluation on the agenda for the next council meeting in August if it pleased the council.
Murphy said he evaluated the town manager “at least three or four times a week” at meetings with Hernstadt at town hall and said “he is constantly following through on the town council’s direction.”
Atterholt gave a lecture on what he thought the town manager’s approach should be. He said “we are very fortunate to have a town manager who is very knowledgeable, very experienced” though he said he felt there was a need for “a new skill-set, a new perspective – if not new than improved” in light of the town’s “new path.”
Citing the town’s ongoing projects, he said he wanted a “softer approach” and more communication.
Allers said “In my heart of hearts, I don’t believe when you have been doing something as long as the manager has been doing it, that you can change. Hopefully I am wrong,” Allers said. “I will be the first one to stand up and say I am wrong.”
Asked for his response after the meeting, Hernstadt said “I always strive to improve. My motto is good enough never is.”