SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Several sources have confirmed that Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez is leaving his job.
“The city is losing a very smart and talented individual,” Savannah Alderman John Hall said. “I wish Mr. Hernandez the best wherever he goes. Our loss is another city’s gain.”
Hernandez said that he has not officially tendered his resignation or discussed this with all of city council as a group. He said he will not release a statement until he felt it was the appropriate time.
We’ve reached out to the mayor’s office and the city spokesperson for comment.
Hernandez came to Savannah from Broward County, FL in 2016.
“He inherited a virtual mess. Remember, he came in in the middle of a hurricane. The first hurricane we’d had in what, 27 years," said District 4 Alderman, Julian Miller.
In addition to dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, Hernandez was tasked with completing a budget and coming up with a blueprint that would carry Savannah years into the future.
“He has come up with the city’s first strategic plan and gotten it going. He has refined our logo so we have the same logo everywhere. There’s an awful lot he has done, most of which the public will never see," Alderman Miller said.
Several things spear-headed by Hernandez have been very public, like re-establishing a Savannah Police Department after the de-merger with the county, the search for a new police chief, and the fire fee proposal.
Less than a year after the fire fee proposal was dropped by city council after public backlash, Hernandez referenced it in a moment of levity during his speech at a firefighter award ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
“Believe it or not, the city actually imposed a fire fee way back in the early 1800′s to provide fire protection services to all property owners of the city. I wish I would’ve known that a year-and-a-half ago. That could have helped us sell what we were trying to do a little easier to those that were opposed to what we were trying to do," he said.
If Hernandez is in fact out the door like sources tell us, city leaders know they need a similar leader to take the helm.
“When you run a city, there are so many moving wheels and so many gears going in different directions. There’s always going to be hundreds of things that have to be addressed. That’s why it’s going to take someone who really knows what they’re doing to pick up the mantle and go forward," Miller said.
Hernandez’s previous attempts to change jobs have been publicized. In August of 2018, it was announced that Hernandez did not get a county administrator position in Pinellas County, FL. The city of Savannah confirmed he was a finalist for the position.
Hernandez was also on the shortlist for a city manager position in Brownsville, TX. At the time, Hernandez said he wasn’t sure if the Savannah community wanted to work with him.
“Criticism of government is healthy and important, and comes with the territory,” he said in a statement in August of 2018. “I don’t take it personally, even if some of the attacks on me have been very personal. What I do want is to work in a community that wants to work with me. I am not sure that is currently the case. Amid a sustained level of criticism and uncertainty, I have considered opportunities outside Savannah. While I have no desire to leave, I did feel it was a prudent move for me and my family.”
Hernandez was a key architect of a proposed fire fee in Savannah that drew the ire of many in the city. The city council withdrew the fee from consideration after a tortured fine-tuning process. The mayor proposed to halve the fee weeks before it was withdrew.
Chaz Adams with the city’s strategic communications office says Hernandez has received an offer as Deputy City Manager for the City of Fort Lauderdale Florida.
“The City of Fort Lauderdale has extended an offer to Roberto “Rob” Hernandez for the position of Deputy City Manager. The offer is contingent upon approval from the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. The commission plans to consider the item at their next meeting, which will take place on Tuesday, April 16,” Adams said.
City council will hold its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday. We’ll be following this closely to see if anything is announced regarding a resignation, as well as what’s next if the Savannah city manager position becomes vacant.