David Fernandez, a 28-year employee at the city of Key West, is officially retiring next month but he isn't leaving City Hall just yet.
Fernandez said Wednesday he will retire as assistant city manager and take a contract job as utilities director as of July 3.
The utilities department is Fernandez's old stomping grounds: He was its director from 1995 to 2008, when he was promoted to Assistant City Manager.
During his watch, the city updated its entire sanitary sewer system, "putting Key West ahead of the entire county in protecting nearshore water quality," city spokeswoman Alyson Crean said Wednesday in a press release.
Fernandez oversaw the upgrading of the city's wastewater treatment plant to meet and exceed strict state standards on advanced wastewater treatment requirements, Crean pointed out.
"During his watch, vital stormwater injection wells were installed," she wrote.
Fernandez is taking a job left vacant by Jay Gewin, who resigned May 7.
Gewin's title was utilities manager, given his relative youth compared to Fernandez's three-decade career in government.
As one of two assistant city managers, Fernandez oversees operations, such as parking and utilities. He said he is excited about having a director's job.
"It allows me to focus on one specialty and feel like I'm building something instead of just putting out fires," Fernandez said.
Fernandez said the move was his idea. He drafted a contract and gave it to City Manager Bob Vitas last month to review.
Fernandez earns about $127,000 as assistant city manager, plus retirement benefits. His new job will pay $113,835 and the city no longer will pay into his pension since he is retired as of July 3.
"I would have been doing the job anyway and training new people coming in," Fernandez said. "We were looking at in-house applicants. I would have had to train them on a very short timeline and while doing the job."
Gewin earned $61,826 as utilities manager.
It was unclear Wednesday night whether Fernandez's assistant city manager job will be filled or if the city will create a new position for the duties.
Fernandez acknowledged the switch is a step down from the city manager's office --Gewin reported to him -- but said he is excited about returning to field work.
"We've got a couple major projects going on that need attention," Fernandez said Wednesday evening. "It would be difficult to do it from my current job. This is pretty much my love. I rebuilt the sewer systems at the beginning of the last decade and put a whole lot of stormwater projects in place."
Born in Key West, Fernandez grew up dividing his time between here and Freeport, Texas, south of Houston, so his father could run his shrimp boat fleet business.
He graduated high school here, at Mary Immaculate when the grades went that far, and went on to graduate from Florida State University and earn an MBA from the University of Miami.
Fernandez, 58, lives in Key Haven but still owns property in Key West.
Fernandez started with the city in 1981 as the supervisor of revenue. He soon went to work for the county tax collector, supervising the installation of personal computers, but returned to the city in 1986 as finance director.
On Jan. 11, 1995, he was hired as utilities director, a job he held until his promotion in March 2008.
Gewin said he decided to leave the city after 15 years in order to relocate to Seattle. But he chose to tender his resignation letter the day after city commissioners awarded a $53 million, 7-year trash contract to Waste Management against his recommendation.
City commissioners plan to recognize Gewin for his years of service at their 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting at Old City Hall. Vitas is making the presentation, the agenda says.