Beaufort News

Beaufort County deputy administrator Gruber runner-up for Florida town manager job

Beaufort County deputy administrator was recently considered for a town manager position in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.
Beaufort County deputy administrator was recently considered for a town manager position in Fort Myers Beach, Fla. lhigh@islandpacket.com

One of Beaufort County’s highest-ranking staffers was recently named the runner-up for a new town manager job in Florida.

Deputy county administrator Josh Gruber, one of four finalists for the position in Fort Myers Beach, had a final interview last week with members of the town’s council. The board ultimately decided to make an offer to Roger Hernstadt, who most recently served as the town manager in Marco Island, Fla.

However, Gruber was unanimously selected as the council’s second choice, and the town could still offer him the job should contract negotiations with Hernstadt break down.

Gruber, a 36-year-old attorney who has been second-in-command to county administrator Gary Kubic since 2014, is a “superstar,” Town of Fort Myers Beach Vice Mayor Tracey Gore said after last week’s interview session.

Councilman Bruce Butcher said, “I found (Gruber) to be super professional, an excellent communicator with a lot of energy.”

However, members of the board expressed concerns about Gruber’s long-term commitment to the town manager job.

Councilwoman Joanne Shamp said the position in Fort Myers Beach — which has roughly 7,000 residents — may be a “stepping stone” on the path toward a bigger job.

During his interview, Gruber told council members that if he were offered the job he would need some time consider and discuss the move with his family before accepting.

“My family is my first priority,” he told the council.

Shamp said that while Gruber is qualified and prepared, “I’m not sure that his heart is in taking this job and relocating his family here.”

Gruber has long been considered a potential replacement for Kubic when he retires Dec. 31.

He said Monday that he is “proactively keeping (his) options open at this point so I can see what may or may not happen” after Kubic retires.

He said he expects Beaufort County Council members to begin the search for Kubic’s replacement within the next few months, “and they have encouraged me to participate.”

Kubic said Monday, “I am leaving, and council should logically consider (Gruber) as my replacement.”

“But I encourage all my staff members … to pursue all the opportunities they can.” he said.

It reflects positively on county staff if other entities show interest in bringing them on board, he said.

“Good people do good work, and (other organizations) want to hire them,” he said.

Gruber isn’t the first high profile local government staffer to test the waters in the job market in recent months.

Last year, Hilton Head Island town manager Steve Riley was in the running for jobs with local governments in Georgia, Iowa, and Texas before opting to stay in his current position.

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