WEEKI WACHEE — Toby Brewer is now permanent manager at the home of the mermaids.
Brewer, a 32-year state parks employee who took over at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park after the former manager was fired last year, will take the 62-year-old landmark into its second year of state stewardship, state officials said Monday.
Brewer, 53, who also manages Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park in Port Richey, says he's ready for a challenge unlike any other in his career.
"It's just the excitement of an old Florida attraction that we're going to give the TLC it needs," he said.
Brewer took the helm in May after Tommy Ervin was put on leave pending the outcome of an investigation into his alleged misconduct. Ervin, a 31-year state employee, had started as Weeki Wachee manager Nov. 1, when ownership of the mermaid attraction was transferred from the city of Weeki Wachee to the state.
He was fired June 19 for illegally altering time sheets, creating a hostile environment and making sexually inappropriate remarks toward a woman employed as a mermaid, according to the results of the investigation.
Brewer is a great fit for the post, said Amy Graham, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"He brings a wealth of management experience and a commitment to the Florida Park Service's mission to protect Florida's natural resources while also providing recreational activities," Graham said.
He will continue double duty until his replacement is hired at Werner-Boyce, Graham said.
His choice of careers made sense for a nature lover, Brewer said. "I knew I wanted to be outside." But the new assignment is a big change, he admitted.
Werner-Boyce has just two employees. Weeki Wachee's staff can climb to about 140 during the peak season.
There are no major changes planned for Weeki Wachee, but aesthetic and structural improvements will continue, Brewer said.
"We want to continue what makes the attraction," especially the underwater mermaid shows that put the park on the map in 1947, he said.
In June, the state cut admission to the park in half for adults and even more for children. The new prices are $13 and $5, respectively.
Tony Marrero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.