Miami Springs City Manager Ron Gorland made no bones about it when he sat down with the Gazette this past Monday morning.
“It’s time to smell the roses,” he said. “Time to spend some quality time with my family while I still have quality of life.”
A few weeks ago, after sitting down with his wife, Trish, and family, Gorland quietly informed members of the Miami Springs city council and confirmed with the Gazette on Monday that he will retire from his post, effective July 31, 2016.
At age 72, many people do retire but in Gorland’s case, health issues perhaps have expedited his decision.
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Gorland learned recently, after winning a battle against kidney cancer that he was diagnosed with 18 months ago, another hurdle has been thrown in front of him.
“I don’t even think he (the doctor) bothered to say good morning,” said Gorland. “He just walked in and said, ‘You’ve got cancer.’ You could imagine my shock. Here I was having just been declared cancer-free a few months earlier and now I would have to deal with it all over again.”
Totally unrelated to the kidney cancer, Gorland was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It’s been caught early and the prognosis is good, especially since he will undergo a much more modern and advanced treatment, but Gorland made the decision to retire.
“My wife and I along with the rest of my family made a decision, with now having been diagnosed again with cancer, that life is too short,” said Gorland, who took over as city manager four years ago when Jim Borgmann retired. “I don’t need to be knocked on my head any further. It was time to smell the roses. That’s what retirement is all about; you work hard to put yourself in a position where you CAN smell the roses and do some of the things you want to do with your family and friends, so I better get busy doing it.”
After growing up in Miami Springs, Gorland went off to serve in the Vietnam War before eventually settling down in the Atlanta area. It was 12 years ago that Borgmann came calling and talked him into moving back to the Springs to serve as the city’s assistant city manager.
Gorland will make his retirement official and in writing on Monday, April 25, at the city’s regularly scheduled council meeting. When asked about his successor, Gorland did not hesitate. He will recommend to the council William Alonso, who has served as the city’s finance director for more than a decade (interrupted by a short stint away working for Miami Gardens), and a few years ago took on the added title of assistant city manager.
“My letter to council will be a strong recommendation for William,” Gorland said. “I’m hopeful that it happens. It would be preferable to appoint him in June so that when he begins on Aug. 1, it would allow him adequate time to go out and find himself an effective assistant city manager.
“It will ultimately be up to whatever council wants, but I’ve set this up with the idea in mind that July 31 is a perfect time to make the change. It’s all basically budget-related stuff, which is William’s role and I’m not as involved. I’m not needed and don’t have a strong presence at that point. August and September would be a perfect time for me to be out of the picture and plenty of time for an assistant to get up to speed.”
Gorland also indicated that if indeed Alonso gets the nod, it would provide for a much smoother transition when it came to the rest of the staff in City Hall.
“We have a lot of good people working for the city and good people should never have to worry about their positions,” Gorland said. “But when there is a change at the top, then you have good people that have to worry about their positions, so I really want to prevent that.”
Gorland will undergo an advanced procedure next month called High Intensity Focus Ultra Sound or HIFU, a process that, according to him literally “cooks” the prostate at a very high temperature, piece by piece.
“The procedure has been FDA approved and is also being done in the United States as well as Europe and Canada but the problem in the U.S. is that insurance companies won’t pay for it,” said Gorland, who estimated the cost of the HIFU procedure is between $20,000 to $25,000. “Insurance companies here are only approving the more traditional invasive surgeries that I was surprised to hear have countless negative permanent side effects. This more modern treatment is nothing more than an in-and-out, four-hour outpatient procedure. Unfortunately there are an awful lot of men who don’t have that option and have to deal with whatever insurance companies will pay for.”
And Gorland wanted to make it crystal clear that continuing to perform his job as the city manager effectively is not an issue, as evidenced by his continuing to run city business while dealing with his first bout with cancer.
“It’s just a matter of wanting to enjoy time with family now,” said Gorland, who has an adopted 13-year-old granddaughter named Sara and has plans to move back to the Atlanta area to be with the rest of his family in August. “We want to try and be settled in by August to get Sara registered in school. Things move quickly when you’ve got a 13-year-old; you have to kind of shift your world to theirs.”
Asked to look back on his time both as assistant city manager and city manager and what his proudest accomplishments were, Gorland got reflective.
“Without belaboring the situation, the city was in dire straits financially back in ’04, which is why Jim called. His strength was on the business and operations side, but not necessarily on the financial side. He had extensive knowledge with his business background with the city of Miami, Miami Beach, plus eight years as a Springs councilman. He knew what he was dealing with but didn’t know exactly how to deal with it. That’s what he sold me on. I came out of the corporate world and we decided to marry the two practices, my corporate knowledge and his municipal government know-how to the betterment of the community, and it worked.
“Since then we’ve put up a new community center, engineered a new contract with the police, which had gone without a contract for years, and made what I felt were terrific hires in the form of (Recreation Director) Omar Luna, (Golf Course Director) Paul O’Dell and (City Planner) Chris Heid. I’d like to think I’m leaving the City of Miami Springs in good stead and looking forward to my life in retirement.”