Herr, who has served as city manager for Plant City since 2014, was offered the position Monday.
The Lakeland Ledger reported Monday, May 1, that City Manager Mike Herr was offered the city manager position by the City of Winter Haven, a Polk County town of about 34,000.
Herr, a graduate of Indiana State University, has served in Plant City since September 2014. He replaced Interim City Manager David Sollenberger, who stepped in after former City Manager Greg Horwedel was hired by Hillsborough County.
In 2015, Herr told the Observer that his desire to enter public service was largely influenced by his mother, Mary Catherine Herr. She served as an appraiser for the family’s hometown of Vincennes, Indiana.
In 1978, Herr became town manager of Newburgh. Two years later, he relocated to Florida to serve as town manager of Dundee.
A Lakeland resident, Herr’s primary focus in Plant City has been on economic development. When he first stepped into the Plant City position, Herr focused on recruitment strategies, increasing jobs and expanding existing businesses, along with services needed to support them.
The ball on economic development began rolling shortly after his hire. In June 2015, the Plant City Economic Development Corp. was launched. Since then, Plant City has seen business expand in and relocate to town, including 2.5 million square feet of commercial space by McCraney Property Co., the addition of 20 new jobs at Highland Packaging Solutions, an $8.9 million expansion at Toufayan Bakeries and a $100 million expansion by James Hardie Building Products.
In October 2015, City Commissioners approved plans to extend sewer lines to Lakeside Station and Park Road, a project that was done to provide an estimated 200 direct new jobs. The water main was approved to serve future businesses in Lakeside Station, including the under-construction QGS Development Inc., which held a groundbreaking ceremony in January for its 16,000-square-foot office building.
At the time, Herr cited the water main project as an investment in economic hotspots.
“This is one of the main ingredients we have to have in order to be competitive in the economic development arena,” he said.
That competitive edge expanded into the long-awaited Midtown redevelopment project, a primary focus of Herr’s economic development vision for Plant City. After the Village Green park was completed in 2015, city leaders authorized three companies for Midtown redevelopment bids in March, including E2L Real Estate Solutions, Green Mills Group and Lefrois Builders and Developers. Herr served on the committee that recommended the three companies to Plant City’s community redevelopment agency (CRA).
In January, Herr said that Plant City was interested in acquiring only the best and most qualified for the project, which includes 15 acres for development and investments of $4.5 million. He frequently cites Plant City’s open-for-business atmosphere and proximity to the Interstate 4 corridor, driving the notion that the City wants Plant City to be the best place to do business in Central Florida.
Should Herr take the position in Winter Haven, the Ledger reported, he would be offered $175,000 annually.
After taking the job in Plant City in 2014, Herr’s starting salary was $150,000 per year and has since been raised by City Commissioners. The $175,000 salary proposal — which includes 20 days of immediate paid vacation and city benefits — is a more than $10,000 increase from his Plant City salary. A proposed start date would be June 12, 2017.
Herr was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but told the Ledger that he is "looking forward to coming on board and working with the City Commission and city staff and serving all the residents in Winter Haven. While I’m happy to be in Polk County, I’ll miss all the great people here in Plant City. They’ve been wonderful.”
Stay with the Plant City Times & Observer for updates.
Contact Emily Topper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Herr's starting salary was $135,000.