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Business Observer Friday, May 12, 2017 5 years ago

Noted cheerleader moves on

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Plant City city manager is heading to Winter Haven

Plant City in east Hillsborough County, amid a development renaissance, is losing one of its biggest cheerleaders.

Mike Herr, city manager of Plant City since September 2014, is leaving his post to become city manager in nearby Winter Haven, in Polk County. The move is a return to familiar turf: Herr was the town manager of Dundee in Polk County from 1980 to 1985; director of public works for Lakeland from 1992 to 1998; Polk County director of transportation from 1998 to 2003; and Polk County Administrator from 2003 to 2010.

Herr has been an outspoken advocate of a proactive move in Plant City to be more business friendly. “Part of our mission is to be the best place to do business in Central Florida,” Herr said in a February Business Observer story on the strategy to grow in Plant City. “We're very motivated. We're very ambitious. Our business community is ready to rock and roll.”

Herr, who ran public works and utilities for the city of Tampa under Mayor Bob Buckhorn for three years, was generally well liked in Plant City government and business circles. His departure, according to the Plant City Observer, sister paper of the Business Observer, came has a surprise to some fellow leaders.

But there was also some recent tension between Herr and at least one city commissioner, the Plant City Observer reported. That came specifically over communication issues in Herr's decision to spend $130,000 on two pieces of transportation equipment. Plant City Vice Mayor Bill Dodson, according the story, sensed Herr was “under duress” and “that he had a significant level of discomfort in his working relationship with some.”

Dodson says while he was surprised by the timing of the announcement, he thought Herr would leave the city eventually.

Herr, in the Plant City Observer story, couched the move as bittersweet. But the lure of a slight bump in salary, combined with a move to a city he says has strong tourism, medical and economic development industries, was too good to pass up.

“I began to think that at my age, at 64, at this state in my career, I may not get that opportunity again,” Herr says. “The opportunity to go back where I spent most of my career and work with a lot of people really pinged at my heart.”

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