Nicole Travis, an economic development leader who rose through the ranks at City Hall from a project manager to deputy city manager, is leaving Lakeland after 11 1/2 years to take a top job in the administration of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

Travis will be an administrator on Castor’s senior leadership team leading special projects and economic development initiatives. She starts her new job on Jan. 24. Her last day with the city of Lakeland is Wednesday, though she says she will be available to assist with any transition issues until Jan. 21.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Travis, 40. She had been an urban designer II at the city of Tampa for four years before she came to Lakeland in 2010 as a project manager for the Community Redevelopment Agency. In Tampa, her focus was the downtown business district and she helped lay the groundwork for the massive development of the Channel District.

In Lakeland, Travis retained her focus on economic development as she took on greater responsibility:

  • In 2015, she became director of the Community Redevelopment Agency.
  • In 2018, she was named director of Community and Economic Development.
  • Last May, she was named deputy city manager, a role where she oversaw the city’s community and economic initiatives and was second in command to City Manager Shawn Sherrouse.

“Nicole’s resignation was very unexpected but she has earned this opportunity to further her own professional development and I am extremely proud of her,” Sherrouse said. He added that during the next month he will “evaluate the needs of the City Manager’s Office and develop a plan to fulfill them.”

City Commissioner Stephanie Madden praised Travis at today’s City Commission meeting, citing her involvement in projects such as the city’s Catalyst Plan for downtown, Mirrorton , Haus 820 , the Yard on Mass and the Federal Building redevelopment.

At Community and Economic Development, Travis set up structures for departments to work together more effectively and implemented express permitting, Madden said, adding, “One of her mantras is, ‘grit, don’t quit.’ ”

Travis said Castor contacted her in late September to see if she was interested in the Tampa position. The two initially met in 2019 at a banquet for Travis and others who were recognized as Tampa Bay Business Journal Businesswoman of the Year honorees.

“This is really bittersweet because I really love the community and we’ve done a lot of great things here,” Travis said.

She said she is particularly pleased about the shift in attitudes of neighborhoods toward city government brought about by open communication. There had been distrust in the past, she said: “They didn’t think we were going to do what we said we would. The thing I’m most proud of is that if you go into neighborhoods now, they know that if say we’re going to do it, that we’re going to do it.”

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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