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BY TONY WINTON
Andrea Agha, who weathered a series of crises ranging from hurricanes to the Ultra Music Festival and the current pandemic, said she is stepping down as Key Biscayne village manager. She delivered the news in personal calls with Council members Thursday.
UPDATE: The Council set a special meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the resignation and “next steps.”
“It’s been a blast,” Agha said. “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done. I’ve grown both personally and professionally.” She said she had no immediate plans but was looking forward to some needed personal time with her family.
The manager is Key Biscayne’s chief administrative officer and directs the entire 124-person workforce including the heads of police and fire departments. She earns $205,000 annually.
Under her contract, Agha said she must provide 90 days notice, but said she will stay longer if requested to assist a transition, or, leave earlier if that is the Village Council’s wish.
Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey, who sometimes clashed with Agha, issued a terse comment Thursday.
“I appreciate her work for the Key and I wish her well.”
Council Member Ed London, who pushed for the hiring of a new Chief Financial Officer and other budgeting changes, said he was surprised.
“She was a breath of fresh air, and I will sorely miss her.”
As for the timing of her departure, Agha said she felt passage of her second budget Sept. 22 represented a major milestone. She said the 2021 budget implements many new financial measures that align with more efficient operations.
She said she was especially proud of the village workforce.
“We work well together – it’s a joyful place to work,” she said.
Agha’s tenure, however, was not without its share of stress and controversy:
- First, there was a lawsuit filed by her predecessor, John C. Gilbert, who alleged the Village was denying him earned retirement pay. Agha, just a few months into her job, was thrust into closed-door negotiations leading to a $325,000 settlement.
- Next, the City of Miami relocated the Ultra Music Festival to Virginia Key, which led to an intense publicity campaign followed by quickly implementing security and traffic plans for the event.
- As Ultra itself was unfolding, Agha had to adapt to a major change in Village leadership, with a new mayor and three new councilmembers who insisted on stronger fiscal controls and cost-cutting.
- Hackers attacked the Village’s computer systems in June 2019, interrupting some systems for a few days
- Agha led preparations for Hurricane Dorian, which at one point threatened a direct hit on the island with Category-5 strength.
With a state of emergency still in effect because of COVID-19, Agha said she is grateful for what she called a “remarkable” experience in her first stint as the top official for a municipality. She had come to Key Biscayne from an assistant position in Miami Lakes.
“We perservered,” she said of the village staff. “It shows what you’re made of.”
Does she have any regrets?
“No. I’ve been methodical; I’ve given this my all. I slept well at night.”
Looking ahead, Agha said she’s glad ten candidates are running for three open seats on the Village Council. A sign of increased engagement, she said.
As for the fate of a $100 million resiliency bond referendum also on November’s ballot, Agha says her eventual successor will have many strong tools and detailed planning documents in place regardless of what funding mechanism is chosen for essential resiliency projects.
“We are leaving a big book,” she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The author worked on the Village’s Ultra publicity campaign as a subcontractor in a competitively-bid process.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.