As much as he would like to stay in Dade City, City Manager Richard Diamond said Wednesday that the time has come to move on.
He accepted a job Tuesday night as city manager of Fernandina Beach, a seaside town of about 10,000 residents on Amelia Island, just south of the Florida-Georgia border.
Before coming to Dade City in 1993, Diamond headed the governments of Palm Bay, as city manager, and Melbourne Beach, as interim city manager.
He said one major factor in his decision to apply for the Fernandina Beach job was that it would put him near the Atlantic coast again.
"I kind of missed the water," he said. Not that leaving Dade City will be easy, he said.
"I'm going to miss it," Diamond said. "I think this is the best City Commission I've ever worked for."
After hearing of Diamond's coming departure, the commission scheduled a meeting for 5:30 p.m. today to discuss recruiting a replacement.
Mayor Charles McIntosh said he was shocked to hear Diamond would be leaving and praised him as a good manager.
"We're going to have a job to do to replace him," McIntosh said.
In more than four years with the city, McIntosh said, Diamond was a "stabilizing force" who pulled together the government and set goals for every department. Diamond took the job after the departure of Ben Bolan, who was city manager for 20 years.
Diamond, 50, plans to report to work in Fernandina Beach in January. His annual salary will jump from less than $57,000 a year in Dade City to about $70,000 a year.
Diamond was the Fernandina Beach City Commission's second choice of three finalists. Vicki Cannon, the city clerk there, said the commission first offered the job to Tony Shoemaker, the former county administrator of Citrus County.
But Shoemaker turned down the commission's salary and severance pay offer, she said.
So the city turned to Diamond. When he arrives, he will fill a spot vacant since July, when Cannon said the City Commission used a vote of no confidence to oust the last city manager.
In Dade City, Diamond's search for a new job was no secret. He was a finalist to be St. Pete Beach's city manager, but last month, the commission there passed him over for another candidate.
On Wednesday, Diamond heaped praise on Dade City, saying he would miss its small-town charm and the officials he worked with, among other things.
"I'm not really anxious to leave," he said.
_ Information from Times files was used in this report.