Isle of Palms has been without an official full-time city administrator for more than a year. The last person to hold the position remained there for nearly 20 years.

In the wake of longtime city administrator Linda Tucker announcing her retirement in May 2018, Tucker’s assistant Desiree Fragoso was appointed to fill the role during the interim. During this time the city’s Human Resources office received more than 100 inquiries with resumes attached applying for the city administrator position.

On May 28, after months of background checks, phone screenings, interviews and skill-based testing, the city’s Personnel Committee narrowed their nationwide hunt down to a single candidate. The committee’s ideal candidate was in-house and they recommended Fragoso be appointed city administrator.

Personnel Committee chair John Moye recalled how citizens kept urging him to choose Fragoso because she deserved it. He agreed but remained adamant that the committee select whoever was most qualified despite personal interests.

However, there was some dissension within the Personnel Committee which resulted in council’s vote to appoint Fragoso not being unanimous. The lone vote opposing Fragoso in the 8-1 decision came from Personnel Committee vice chair Sandy Ferencz.

“I heard the comment Personnel is wasting time and wasting money because we already have the votes,” Ferencz continued. “I couldn’t agree with my committee at the previous meeting because I thought we had an opportunity to look at new ideas. Desiree you’re going to do a great job I’m sure you are, but I have to go against my committee.”

After the vote was made official, Fragoso says she was humbled and overwhelmed by the confidence and support from her peers. She admitted that stepping into a leadership position that had not changed in nearly two decades was challenging.

“This role requires vision, discipline, and most importantly, passion and I believe I have an abundance of all three,” she said.

Fragoso has a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology and a master’s degree in public administration from the College of Charleston. Her career with the city dates back to September 2015, where she worked closely with Tucker and department heads on major projects, such as the Phase II Drainage, Beach Renourishment Project and Isle of Palms Marina improvements.

During her time as interim city administrator she’s assisted in planning and managing the day-to-day functions of the city’s departments. Other initiatives Fragoso has worked on during her time at city hall include: streamlining administrative processes, managing a consistent social media policy, making audio recordings of all city committee meetings available online, and creating informational pieces highlighting council’s actions and the status of the city’s projects.

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Isle of Palms Assistant City Administrator Desiree Fragoso (center) facilitates a workshop at the Isle of Palms Citizen Forum in February 2018.

Fragoso says she’s confident that under her leadership the city will continue to make headway on the major issues the city is facing particularly the drainage infrastructure improvements, an aging marina and the rehabilitation of the Public Safety Building.

“My goal has been to lead by example and encourage a work culture centered on transparency, professionalism, and being open, flexible and adaptive the new ideas,” she said.

In closing remarks, councilmember Randy Bell reflected on how he’s watched Fragoso step up and take on “some of the toughest challenges this city has seen in an awful long time.”

“I’ve hired a lot of people and I’ve fired a lot of people in my career. You hire for potential, you don’t just hire for what you have right now,” Bell said. “She’s done it with grace. She’s done it with a great attitude. She’s done it with a smile on her face and I couldn’t be more proud to put my support behind Desiree.”