New Marathon city manager excited to start work

Incoming City Manager Charles Lindsey speaks to the City Council during his final interview in late August. He expects to arrive in the Florida Keys by New Year's and start work Jan. 4.
Incoming City Manager Charles Lindsey speaks to the City Council during his final interview in late August. He expects to arrive in the Florida Keys by New Year's and start work Jan. 4.

Marathon rings in 2016 with new leadership with the city's top unelected position being filled by a new face.

Wednesday, incoming City Manager Charles Lindsey was traveling through Southern California en route to Marathon with his wife Leslie and sons Keygan, 16, and Bosun, 6. He said the plan is to be in the Florida Keys for New Year's, just in time for his first day on the job Jan 4.

"Leslie and I are both excited to get to Marathon and get started," said the newly retired command master chief for the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific Northwest. "We're looking forward to being back in the community with friends and family."

He was selected by City Council in late August from a pool of nearly 50 applicants.

Lindsey celebrated the end of his 21-year Coast Guard career with a retirement party Dec. 19 in Washington state. Part of his tenure in the service included serving as senior operations manager for Coast Guard Station Marathon from 2010 to 2013.

Lindsey replaces outgoing City Manager Mike Puto, who said in April he would step down by year's end.

The City Council appointed Puto city manager in January 2014 after then-City Manager Roger Hernstadt left after four years to be city manager in Marco Island. Puto is paid $10,000 a month without benefits and was not considered for the job long term.

Puto, who was appointed to the Florida Keys Community College's board of Trustees earlier this month by Gov. Rick Scott, said he has no ambitions to jump back into government -- or the politics that go with it -- anytime soon.

"I've enjoyed being city manager. It's been an honor to work with such a great staff that truly cares about Marathon," said Puto, who will help Lindsey through the transition. "Chuck will have a good team to work with."

Puto, in his second stint as manager, said he's looking forward to "catching my breath again" and may take a small break from working. He's considering going into consulting but nothing concrete has surfaced.

In his tenure, Puto has named Planning Director George Garrett the deputy manager and restructured the Utilities Department, firing former department head Zully Hemeyer Aug. 31. Puto hired Dan Saus, former operations manager for the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District, as her replacement.

Puto points to the ongoing construction of City Hall at 9805 Overseas Highway oceanside as one of his biggest accomplishments. It is expected to be completed this spring.

His previous stint as city manager was from 2005 to 2008, coming to an end after then-Councilwoman Marilyn Tempest chastised him for having a dirty office. She drafted a lengthy list of goals and objectives she wanted completed within 30, 90 and 120 days.

The council kept pressure on Puto in March 2007 when then-Mayor Pete Worthington discovered he had approved $137,000 worth of Gonzalez Landscaping contracts without council approval.

By February 2008, Puto tendered his resignation.

Lindsey said his immediate tasks are to meet with city staff and the City Council to get a better grip on what to accomplish in the coming year. He and his family will also look for a permanent home in the city; they'll live in a temporary place until then.

"I think the first week will be going over things with Mike, the department heads and meet with council," Lindsey said. "I loved the Coast Guard. Retiring was very bittersweet and it has been good to our family. But we're excited for the next chapter in Marathon."

Lindsey has a three year contract that runs until Jan. 4, 2019. He'll be paid $141,000 annually.