Florida Keys News
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Aguilar takes charge

ISLAMORADA -- Islamorada's newly-appointed interim village manager says her background as a six-year army veteran will influence her approach to leading the village's staff.

"My management style is based on my military experience, where when you're in charge, you're accountable for the actions of the people who report to you," Maria Aguilar said during an interview in her Village Hall office last Friday.

Aguilar, who has been the village's finance director since August 2011, assumed the role of interim manager late in the afternoon on Feb. 5, after her predecessor, Ed Koconis, chose to step down rather than give up his second title as planning director.

Aguilar had also been deputy village manager for a year.

She takes over the manager's chair from a man who was often tight-lipped in public and who was criticized by some for being reluctant to make decisions.

Aguilar last week said she would maintain the open style of communication that has marked her tenure as finance director and also said she would put an emphasis on creating a positive work environment.

She said she has been very pleased by the reaction of other village employees to her appointment.

"I've been told that I have the ability to isolate an issue and look at it objectively," she said.

Aguilar, 51, served in the Army from 1982 to 1988, eventually reaching the rank of sergeant. One of her posts was at a field station in Germany, where she copied Morse code, she said.

After raising two sons and a daughter, she returned to school, earning a master's degree in accounting from Florida Atlantic University in 2005.

Two years earlier she began her government career as the clerk for the tiny gated enclave of Orchid, a town of less than 300 people in Indian River County.

By 2005 Aguilar had become Orchid town manager, supervising a staff of three. She held the post for two years and then moved to Marco Island, where she served as controller until her 2011 hire by Koconis.

Aguilar said that despite Orchid's small size, her years as manager there should help in her new role as head of the village's administration. In particular, the position gave her experience in intergovernmental relations.

"I had the advantage of participating in all the county meetings," she said.

Asked what her weaknesses are, Aguilar said she'll need to become more familiar with the politics of Islamorada.

As a self-described straightforward numbers person, she also said she has never been particularly inspired by the building and planning processes, in which interpretation is a significant part of decision making.

"I've always kind of avoided it because of that," Aguilar said.

As for whether she wants to stay on as village manager for more than just an interim tenure, Aguilar said she has not yet decided.

"At this point, I'm not 100 percent sure," she said. "I have to see how many sleepless nights go with it."

rsilk@keysnews.com

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