To some, his return to the public stage has been true to form, and not reassuringly so.
After helping Boria in his campaign, Carollo seemed joined at the hip to the new mayor, accompanying him to meetings and even joining him for family lunches at the mayor’s Doral home. The two met while attending an evangelical Christian church in Kendall, Alpha & Omega.
Carollo also engineered Boria’s selection of respected veteran government administrator Merrett Stierheim, who was retired, as interim city manager to assist in the transition and the selection of a permanent manager.
Carollo had turned to Stierheim before, bringing him to Miami as interim manager to help right the city when the courts awarded him the mayoralty following the disputed ’97 election.
This time, though, things did not end well. The 79-year-old Stierheim resigned after a raging dispute with Carollo over the weekend that he would not detail but said left him flummoxed.
On Wednesday, the Doral council unanimously approved Boria’s nomination of Carollo as the city’s top administrator, a move Stierheim publicly called a mistake.
On his first day as manager, Carollo called a news conference — an unusual move for a nonpolitical public administrator — to blast Stierheim, alleging he had made disparaging remarks about Hispanics’ ability to govern and that he’d referred to himself as “the great white hope.’’ Stierheim denied making the comments.
Clearly stung, Stierheim said Carollo deserved some of the credit for saving Miami from fiscal ruin, although the city was being run by a state oversight committee that had to sign off on every major decision. But he said he’s uncertain whether Carollo has the skills or temperament to serve in a strictly managerial capacity.
“He’s not dumb. He’s got smarts. No question about that,’’ Stierheim said. “But I question Joe’s ability to be a professional manager. He’s never been one. There is a clear dichotomy between professional management and politics.
“I will tell you this: they have an outstanding professional team in Doral. I hope so for their sake, but I have my concerns.’’
Carollo said in an interview Friday that Boria had offered him the job, but he declined, instead recommending Stierheim. He claimed Stierheim then “stuck a whole samurai sword’’ in his back, attempting to sow doubt in Boria’s mind about Carollo and taking actions like firing the police chief without consulting the mayor.
Carollo said he then felt obligated to take on the job when asked again by Boria, whom he said he trusts and admires and felt he’d let down by bringing in Stierheim. Carollo said taking the Doral job meant turning down a potentially lucrative business deal abroad.
He also said he has no doubt he’s up to the job.
“Judge me from here to a year or six months from now,’’ Carollo said. “I’m not perfect, but I know how to administer a city. All that I ask is, let me work. Look at my track record. I was a straight shooter. I handled the city budget with integrity. I am going to succeed in Doral.’’
One longtime Carollo ally, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, cautioned against underestimating Carollo’s abilities. Carollo appointed Gimenez as city manager in Miami to succeed Stierheim.