City Manager Shawn Sherrouse announced at Monday’s City Commission meeting that he had hired a new assistant city manager, Rob Hernandez, 57.
“Rob has an impeccable reputation among his colleagues in both the international and the Florida City County Management Association,” Sherrouse told the commission, noting that Hernandez had been the city manager in both Savannah and Cape Coral and had a lengthy career in Broward County, as well.
Hernandez told LkldNow that what he loves about his new hometown is that it has a lot of things you find in bigger cities.
“There’s public art, lots of festivals, public parks, professional baseball and you’re in a great location,” Hernandez said. “Places that I lived don’t have that.”
Hernandez has a 30-year career in city and county government management. He started in 1994 with Broward County, where he held various positions of leadership including deputy county administrator during his 17-year tenure. He served as the deputy county manager for Fulton County, Georgia, in Atlanta; deputy city manager for Coral Springs; city manager for Savannah; deputy city manager for Fort Lauderdale and, most recently, city manager for Cape Coral.
He also spent more than 25 years serving as a civil affairs specialist in the United States Army Reserve, which Sherrouse said “provided Rob with experiences that have broadened his public service career at an international level. Rob Hernandez represents the experiential and professional diversity that the City of Lakeland aspires to demonstrate, and we are happy to welcome him to our team.”
But Hernandez left Cape Coral under a cloud after its city council did not renew his contract, effectively firing him after two years. According to the Fort Myers News-Press, he filed a complaint against the city, alleging practices toward other employees were racist or anti-gay.
City officials hired GrayRobinson, a statewide firm that specializes in municipal law, to document and investigate the claims and found they were either unsubstantiated or only had partial merit.
The report said that because Hernandez did not participate in the investigator’s interviews, they were unable to verify most of his claims.
Hernandez earned $236,000 annually in Cape Coral as city manager. He will earn $142,700 in Lakeland as the third-highest-ranking employee, behind Sherrouse and Colón.
Sherrouse said he and city officials knew about the issue when they hired Hernandez.
“We are aware of the recent history in Cape Coral. Rob has had an impeccable 30-year career in multiple impressive jurisdictions,” Sherrouse said. “There have been a lot of related discussions between Rob, Emily and I. We received extremely favorable reference recommendations and are fully aware and impressed with his reputation within both the International and Florida City and County Management Associations.”
Sherrouse said that, currently, “there is no lawsuit filed and, should that change, it would be inconsequential to the City of Lakeland.”
Hernandez started his job with Lakeland on Monday morning at the City Commission meeting.
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