Just after Coral Gables commissioners voted 3-2 two weeks ago to keep City Manager Pat Salerno in office after two commissioners moved to fire him over his management style, the man who replaced Salerno in Sunrise four years ago left his job.
The simultaneous events fueled speculation that Salerno might return to his post in Sunrise, a Broward municipality he ran as city manager for 18 years. During Salernos tenure in Sunrise he was instrumental in bringing the Sawgrass Mills mall and BankAtlantic Center to the city as well as boosting its reserves to $50 million.
But he left in January 2008 amid some of the same grumblings that have recently hit him in the Gables. Three of the five commissioners in Sunrise, who balked at Salernos management style, asked for his resignation or threatened to fire him. Bruce Moeller, a fire chief, replaced Salerno and left in early August to accept a job in Pinellas County.
Salerno, 61, became Coral Gables city manager in April 2009. When he took office, the city faced a financial crisis as its revenues were overestimated by $8.5 million and its expenses underestimated by the same amount. The city had to taps its reserves of $8.5 million, renegotiate debt and lay off employees.
Today, the Gables has $12 million in reserves. Salerno also negotiated a settlement with the Biltmore Hotel, which paid the city $5 million in back rent and fees in December.
The Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday that Sunrise commissioners were split over welcoming Salerno back, with some citing his strong financial skills to help move the city forward while others continued to rue Salernos management style, described as iron fisted.
But there was never a move by Salerno to throw his name into the mix of a reported 69 candidates for the job by Fridays deadline.
After The Miami Herald ran its story on Salernos troubles and ultimate survival, he said he received some calls from Sunrise officials.
I got some folks from Sunrise who reached out to me to see if I was interested in coming back which, of course, was flattering, Salerno said Wednesday. I told them I have a job and were doing good things here. Thats it. From the time I went to school at the University of Miami I always wanted to be city manager here. I bought a house here not too long ago. That some people reached out to me spurs rumors out there but thats almost natural.
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