For Jerome Fletcher, a job as city manager, a little less than 1,000 miles down the East Coast, was a career goal for some time.
“The professional goals of being a city manager is a path that I’ve been on for [many years],” Fletcher, one of Montgomery County’s assistant chief administrative officers under County Executive Marc Elrich, said in an interview Monday.
Fletcher signed an agreement last week with North Port, Fla., to become its city manager. His first day will be Oct. 1.
Fletcher worked as an assistant chief administrative administrator since March 2019. His last day working for the county is Sept. 10.
In his duties in the county, he focused on issues related to small business engagement and growth — particularly for those owned by minorities and women, along with socially and economically individuals.
Fletcher said he and his family have looked for many years at moving to Florida, potentially to finish out his career. He said the culture and his interactions with the city commission and Mayor Jill Luke were part of the reason he took the North Port Job.
Luke said in an interview Monday that Fletcher was one of more than 40 candidates for the position. She added that experience in economic development is critical as the city grows beyond 75,000 people, given current development plans.
The appeal of guiding a community as its city manager, may have been appealing, Luke said. The main challenge will be adapting to Florida’s more open “sunshine laws” on public information, she said.
“We just want to do the right thing for the community and create a quality of life for our citizens,” Luke said of the political climate. “You cannot help but hear his [Fletcher’s] love of public service. … I believe that’s probably what drew him, not finding that political ladder, but being able to touch and develop a community through a hands-on process.”
Fletcher’s departure will follow others leaving Elrich’s administration recently, either through retirements or for other opportunities. Most recently, Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, announced last week he would resign effective Sept. 12.
When asked about the departures, Fletcher said there are many reasons people might move on to another job, including career advancement and a chance to move closer to family.
“At some point, you’re looking for a new and fresh perspective on your career path,” Fletcher said.
“Marc Elrich has always been a strong supporter of Jerome Fletcher,” he added about his relationship with the county executive. “He’s always been there to listen to me and treat me well. … He’s been wonderful to work with.”
Many people don’t leave their current job because of one reason, he said.
“I can’t speak for other people, [but] if you’re looking at the top and how to critique [it]. … What are they doing to keep people engaged professionally and keep them challenged? … I think most of us, you look at everything in its totality, it’s not one thing that makes you want to leave,” Fletcher said. “It’s multiple important factors, [and] you have to do an analysis of tradeoffs.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com