In his more than 40 years in Miami city government, Frank Rollason is perhaps best remembered for what he would not do.
He would not bow to pressure from Miami’s then-mayor to fire the city’s police chief — a move that earned him a standing ovation from city officials, but which cost him his short-lived job as Miami’s city manager.
Decades later, the episode has convinced at least one Miami Beach commissioner that Rollason has what it takes to become the Beach’s next city manager. He is one of three finalists being considered for the job, which is up for grabs after former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez was forced to step down.
“He’s got the right experience,” said Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, when voting to include Rollason on the city’s shortlist of candidates.
References interviewed by the Beach’s headhunter describe Rollason as an organized leader who’s not afraid to speak his mind. Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin noted at a public meeting that Rollason showed up to interviews wearing a sweatshirt and jeans.
Rollason was a Miami firefighter from 1966 to 1992, when he was tapped to lead the city’s Hurricane Andrew recovery efforts. City Hall was a tumultuous place in the 1990s and early 2000s, rocked by scandal, corruption and financial problems. Rollason, 68, took on new roles as the city stared down each new crisis. He was chosen to serve as director of general services, interim city manager, city manager, and in other positions.
Throughout his career, Rollason earned a reputation as an administrator who could fix broken departments.
“He was my, ‘fix it guy.’ Whenever I had a problem that needed to be fixed, Frank would fix it,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who made Rollason his assistant city manager when Gimenez was city manager.
Rollason’s last role in city government was to put back on track Miami’s Omni redevelopment agency as executive director. Before taking over, the agency was the subject of state and federal investigations into its spending, among other issues.
During Rollason’s time at the redevelopment agency, his 25-year old chief of staff was killed when she was thrown off of a police horse she was riding. Rollason said he and the woman, Susana Gutierrez, were at the police stables on city business. A police investigation concluded the death was a tragic accident, but city officials questioned Rollason’s decision to allow the afternoon gallop during business hours.
“It breaks my heart that it happened,” Rollason said.
He stepped down from the redevelopment agency in 2006 to launch an unsuccessful campaign for the Miami City Commission, which Marc Sarnoff won. Sarnoff declined to comment for this article.
Rollason has gone on to become a City Hall watcher and activist in Miami’s Belle Meade neighborhood, sitting on the homeowner’s association board there, speaking on issues of crime and code enforcement. He works as a representative for the Coral Gables-based Rodriguez and Quiroga Architects Chartered.
A decorated Vietnam veteran, Rollason has two grown children with his wife, Fran. She has led preservation efforts in Miami’s MiMo district and was the first president of the MiMo Biscayne Association.
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