By Mary Thurwachter
In a surprise development Sept. 21, Lantana Mayor Robert Hagerty announced his resignation halfway through his first three-year term.
Hagerty, 57, has served since March 2021 after defeating 21-year incumbent Mayor Dave Stewart. Hagerty, a former police officer, spent most of his career working in Lantana.
“I had no intention of going back to work when I retired” from the Police Department, “and here I am working on a second career,” Hagerty said. The new job in construction means relocating to Orlando, something he plans to do by Oct. 10. He said he brought the topic up because the next town meeting is Oct. 24, after he will have left Lantana.
He thanked town staff, fellow council members and residents for their support and said the decision to leave came “after a lot of thought and discomfort” on his part.
Hagerty didn’t respond to The Coastal Star’s request for further comment on his departure. He has come under criticism for missing multiple meetings since his tenure began.
The final budget public hearing where he made the announcement was sparsely attended.
“I wish more people were here to have said this to,” Hagerty said. “I thank everybody in attendance tonight.”
Reached by phone after the meeting, Vice Mayor Karen Lythgoe said Hagerty’s announcement came as “a big surprise” that night, although she had expected it for a while. “I just figured the work was getting in his way and he was getting torn both ways. I expected it before now and as time had gone on, I thought well, he’s just going to keep going to the end of his term,” she said.
Lythgoe is acting mayor temporarily, she said. “The seat will go on the ballot in March, when my seat is up also.”
After a workshop meeting to discuss Hagerty’s resignation on Sept. 27, Lythgoe said she would make a run for mayor during the March election and not seek re-election to her Group 4 seat. Should she win her bid to become mayor, the term will be only until March 2024, at which time she would need to run again.
In an email to The Coastal Star, Town Attorney Max Lohman said the council had several options:
• Leave the mayor’s seat vacant until a special election in March 2023 to fill Hagerty’s unexpired term, which goes until March 2024. Until the election, the vice mayor would serve as acting mayor. This is the option the council has chosen.
• Appoint someone to serve as mayor until a March election is held to fill the remainder of the mayor’s unexpired term. The vice mayor would have served as acting mayor only until the council makes that appointment. • The council could also have chosen to appoint Lythgoe mayor until a March election, then appointed someone to fill her council seat for the remainder of her term, Lohman said, but he added “this option is unnecessary, because as vice mayor she serves as mayor in the absence of the mayor already.”