USA TODAY’s drone fleet shows the devastation in Mexico Beach, Florida in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Maureen Kenyon and Ricardo Rolon, TC PALM
Longtime Space Coast political figure Andy Anderson is moving to Florida’s Panhandle to become city administrator in Mexico Beach, a small coastal town devastated by Hurricane Michael in October.
“Preparing to begin the most challenging and exciting position in my professional career — more to come soon,” Anderson tweeted on July 22, the day he signed his employment contract.
Wednesday is Anderson’s last day working as Palm Bay’s director of economic development and external affairs. He will travel to Mexico Beach next week to meet with residents and officials, then start his new job on Aug. 26.
National media flocked to Mexico Beach after Category 5 Michael roared ashore, packing 160 mph winds and 9 feet to 14 feet of storm surge. All told, 1,584 of the town’s 1,692 buildings were damaged — and 809 of those were destroyed, the National Hurricane Center reported.
The city/s website refers to Mexico Beach as “Mayberry on the Water,” and the population is about 1,200 residents. Construction crews have descended on the community, where many residents are still living in fifth-wheel trailers.
“It’s a beautiful place. It’s just paradise, you know? They’re a small town, and they have this small-town attitude and really believe in quality of life and maintaining that. And so, that’s what I was looking for,” Anderson said Wednesday.
“I’m excited about getting up there and helping them rebuild,” he said.
Anderson served on the Brevard County Commission from 2008 to 2016. He previously served four years on the Palm Bay City Council, and he returned to City Hall as an administrator in 2015.
“I’ve got a lot of time here, a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested in different projects. It’s always going to be my original home, as I call it. I left Ohio when I was 18, so my entire adult life has been here,” Anderson said.
“I just turned 50, and was looking to move on and do the next chapter of my life,” he said.
In May, Anderson — who was serving his third stint as Palm Bay’s interim deputy city manager — resigned, effective Oct. 2, to pursue other opportunities. After taking the Mexico Beach job, he advanced his resignation timeline so his accrued vacation time will run out Sept. 4.
Anderson said his resignation was not related to political controversy that has jolted Palm Bay City Hall, including the May arrest of former Deputy City Manager Dave Isnardi. Isnardi worked as chief of staff in Anderson’s County Commission District 5 office.
Isnardi faces charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit extortion, and two counts of conspiracy to possess controlled substances — oxycodone and ethylone.
Mexico Beach is about 10 miles east of Tyndall Air Force Base along U.S. 98. The military installation sustained an estimated $4.7 billion in damages from Michael.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration confirmed squadrons of F-35 fighter jets will be based at Tyndall AFB beginning in 2023, the Associated Press reported.
Neale is the South Brevard watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or email@example.com. Twitter: @RickNeale1
One of the hardest-hit spots in Florida is Mexico Beach, where Michael crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph (250 kph) winds. (Oct. 11) AP
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