PLANT CITY Greg Horwedel says he looks back on his years at City Hall with pride but he's eager to tackle a new challenge as second in command with Hillsborough County government.
Horwedel will said goodbye Friday after eight years with the city, including the last four years as city manager. City officials gave him high marks for his tenure
“I think Plant City is a much better place because of your leadership,” City Attorney Ken Buchman told Horwedel at his final city commission meeting.
Horwedel, 52, resigned his $135,000 a year job as city manager to become deputy county administrator. He will be paid $180,000 a year by the county, as the number of employees he supervises more than triples to 1,500.
Horwedel said he was happy in Plant City but the offer from County Administrator Mike Merrill was too good to pass up. Horwedel said he enjoyed his job and his departure is bittersweet.
“Plant City is not only a great place to live, it's a great place to work,” he said. “I got up every morning thinking my job was a joy, never a burden.”
He and his wife Kim, who have four children ages 16 to 20, will continue to live in Plant City.
City officials showered him with praise for his leadership, including through the nationwide economic downturn in recent years.
“It's easy to lead through the easy times, but it's hard to lead through the difficult times. Greg is going to be missed,” Commissioner Rick Lott said.
Horwedel credited his staff with helping city government run smoothly.
“I had the good fortune to lead the team,” he said.
Horwedel said he feels a sense of accomplishment for many reasons, including: helping convince James Hardie building products and Dart Container to expand their factories in Plant City; development of plans for the northeastern part of the city; revision of the method the city uses to collect fees from developers for traffic impact of their projects; and the continuing redevelopment of midtown, an 85-acre area south of downtown.
City commissioners, who are hiring a consultant to conduct a national search for Horwedel's replacement, deserve a lot of credit, he said.
“They do care tremendously about Plant City,” he said. “They were great to work for.”
Commissioners have appointed retired City Manager David Sollenberger to serve as interim city manager for $2,500 per week.
Sollenberger first recruited Horwedel to come to Plant City after Sollenberger was named city manager in late 2002. Horwedel had previously worked for the 77-year-old Sollenberger in Sarasota, where Sollenberger was city manager.
Horwedel, a graduate of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, has a long history in government service, ranging from serving as county administrator in Dinwiddie County, Va. to township administrator in Deerfield, Ohio.
Horwedel said his most difficult days at the helm in Plant City came early this year when an investigation led to his firing of Police Chief Steve Singletary for neglecting his duties.
He also faced difficult times due to shrinking tax revenue that led to layoffs of some city employees. But he said he is proud the city was able to hold the line on the city property tax rate for the last five years. He said he looks forward to using his leadership skills in his new role. And he promises to always lend an ear to the city's needs in his new job.
“This is my home and I want the best for it,” he said. “My door is always open.”