The City of Port St. Lucie has a new city manager. Jesus Merejo moved up one step from chief assistant city manager to the top job on Feb. 17.
He replaces Russ Blackburn who retired the same day after six years in the position and a 47-year career in government. The council formally agreed on Jan. 23 to contract with Merejo at a yearly salary of $275,000. Like other city employees, he will receive benefits, a yearly cost-of-living increase and, after an annual performance evaluation, may receive a merit raise.
Merejo served as Blackburn’s assistant beginning in 2018. But he began working for the city in 1994, working his way up from chief wastewater-treatment plant operator to the director of the city’s Utility Department in 2003, staying in that job for 15 years until he moved to the assistant city manager position at city hall.
Merejo received high praise from Mayor Shannon Martin when the council agreed not to conduct a search for a new manager, but instead to hire from within. Blackburn, she said, had done an excellent job of succession planning, something the city departments have been working on for a while.
“Personally, having worked with Mr. Merejo for the past 12 years, I have always been impressed with him as a leader. I have always been able to trust his judgment wholeheartedly,” Martin said.
Council members said Merejo will provide continuity for the organization and noted the respect that both the staff and community members have for him. They complimented his vision for the city, proactive leadership style and his willingness to embrace innovation.
Blackburn’s accomplishments were many, council members said, citing his work to reduce the city’s debt, the Crosstown Parkway completion, regaining ownership of the city center and acquisition of the Southern Grove property in the western part of the city.
“I feel very proud that he [Blackburn] chose Port St. Lucie as his final destination before retiring,” Councilwoman Jolien Caraballo said after describing how he had helped her to become a better council member.
Merejo started his new job on Friday, Feb. 18. His office can be reached at 871.5163.