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Monroe County's administrator resigns for what might be a brief retirement

Headshot of Roman Gastesi, who served as Monroe County's administrator for nearly 16 years.
Headshot of Roman Gastesi, who served as Monroe County's administrator for nearly 16 years.

Monroe County’s longtime administrator is stepping down, for what he thinks will be a short-lived retirement. Roman Gastesi has worked for Monroe County for almost 16 years.

The county commission approved his resignation and a plan to volunteer his time as an advisor Wednesday. At the end of the week, he’ll step into retirement for at least six months.

In his absence, the county government will be dealing with one of its biggest issues: the fate of future development in the Keys.

“Right now the state is telling us, ‘There's 7,954 available lots, buildable lots in the Keys,” Gastesi told WLRN. “The state's telling us, do you want a permit for each one of those?”

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That many new permits at once could mean a building boom and serious implications for infrastructure and public safety across the Florida Keys. The county plans on launching a huge public outreach campaign to find what Gastesi referred to as the “sweet spot” — somewhere between no more permits and all nearly 8,000.

The county will hold as many as 100 public meetings over the course of the next ten or so months to gather feedback and data from community members. The effort will be spearheaded by the county’s senior director of strategic planning and libraries, Kimberly Matthews.

“We can't do this alone,” Matthews said during Wednesday’s commission meeting. “This has to be a united voice from all of us.”

But directly taking over for Gastesi will be Kevin Wilson, the county’s current assistant administrator.

“There’s no doubt Kevin’s the right person for the job,” Gastesi said. “He was here before I started. He’s helped me build the team that we have now so it’ll be seamless.”

Per state law, Gastesi could come back to his position after six months, which he said he wants to do. Gastesi has worked in Florida government settings for 35 years and opted into the state Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP. His retirement is a condition of the DROP program.

“If the county commission wants me back, and I want to come back, then we'll talk about it at that point,” he said. “I really enjoy what I'm doing. We have a lot of great programs going on. So I think it'd be fun to continue those programs if possible.”

During his time off though, Gastesi is planning to travel. A personal goal, he said, is to run a marathon on all seven continents in the world. He plans to be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June to run in his fourth continent, South America.

He said he also hopes to go sailing in the Caribbean.

Commissioners Wednesday congratulated Gastesi on his retirement and nearly 16 years of work for the county, including navigating through disaster recovery during Hurricane Irma.

“It can be a thankless job,” County Mayor Holly Raschein said.

Julia Cooper reports on all things Florida Keys and South Dade for WLRN.
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