INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Chuck Coward, a longtime figure in local government and city manager here for the past four years, will retire next month.
"When you get to be 70 years old, you've got to do what you got to do," Coward said last week. "Being city manager for Indian Rocks Beach has been a great job and I appreciate all the opportunities they have given me."
Soon after his final day as city manager on May 31, Coward plans to spend his summer in Colorado where two of his five children live with their families. Other family members live in Kansas City and Nashville.
"I find myself wanting to spend more time with my family and traveling to see the world while I still have my health and curiosity," Coward said in his resignation letter.
He said he and his wife, Carol, who was just re-elected to the Treasure Island Commission, will continue to live in Treasure Island and she will complete her term on the city's commission.
Coward said he and Carol were shocked when they returned from a European vacation last year to find two of their closest friends had died.
"It makes you think," he said.
Coward surprised his commission when he notified them he planned to retire.
"Chuck has charted a course of excellence for our city and his shoes will be very hard to fill," said Commissioner Terry Hamilton Wollin.
He was equally praised by other commissioners. Mayor R.B. Johnson described Coward as one of the best city managers he had ever worked with.
Coward originally planned to resign on May 12, his birthday, but instead will stay until the end of the month in order to complete the city's proposed 2013-14 budget.
He will also help the city find his replacement. The city is already advertising the position on its website, as well as on various professional sites, and has set a May 10 deadline for applications to be submitted.
The ideal candidate must have "highly developed managerial/technical skills," a "hands on" work ethic, and "diplomatic skills" deemed vital to working with residents and commission members.
The new manager should be a "doer as well as an administrator," according to the job posting.
The commission has not set a salary. Coward makes about $90,000 annually plus benefits.
Coward said no one has yet been selected as an interim city manager, although the city's public works director, Dean Sharmen, has filled in for Coward when he has been out of town.
In his letter to the commission, Coward said he had "thoroughly enjoyed" serving as the city's manager and hoped the city and residents would continue projects to upgrade the city's business district and make Gulf Boulevard "safer and more attractive."
When asked what he viewed as his greatest achievements while city manager, Coward listed three:
• "The city was in a desperate financial situation. Last month the city's fund balance was $1.8 million.
• "The city staff was in some level of disarray and disorganization when I arrived. I believe I was able to create a higher morale, a better working situation, and developed a single purpose to the jobs we were undertaking.
• "My third accomplishment is project management. When I came on four years ago, the city really wanted to build docks (at Keegan Clair Park) and expand the Historic Museum, but didn't know how to do it. I was able to show them the way."
Projects on the city's wish list include improvement to the Walsingham Road and Gulf Boulevard intersection as the city's gateway entrance, revitalization and expansion of city hall, relocation of the city's solid waste facility, continued improvement of the Narrows Business District, streetscaping in the city's midtown and uptown areas, and burying utilities along Gulf Boulevard.
Coward previously served for seven years as city manager in Treasure Island, retiring for the first time in 2004. He later worked as facilities director for St. Petersburg-based Mortgage Investors Corp., until he was hired by Indian Rocks Beach. Prior to his post in Treasure Island, Coward served as city manager for Cherry Hills Village in Colorado.