Tomasito is clearing brush at City Hall. Another Manny Diaz ally is leaving. Last week, it was city manager Pete Hernandez. Now, it's Robert Parente, the head of the city's film office, and the guy who convinced shows like "Burn Notice" and Jennifer Aniston's puppy movie "Marley & Me," to film in town.
Harry Emilio Gottlieb, an occasional pissed-off New Times letter writer, is his likely replacement.
"I was told I was being released because of the terrible financial crisis we were in, and they needed to make cutbacks," Parente said Thursday from his office, where he was still packing. Friday is his last day as a city employee.
Ironically, it was Hernandez himself who gave Parente the boot. On February 4, the then city manager told him his services would no longer be needed.
The city has laid off dozens of employees in the last five months, not least of whom was our own Chicken Buster. But Parente's dismissal is the most glaring. Was he canned because he was hired by Manny Diaz? "I could jump to conclusions and say yes, but I want to take [Regalado] at face value," Parente said. "I'm not a political appointee."
However, even though he offered to cut his modest $82,000-a year-salary, Parente never got a response from the mayor's office. Neither did Riptide's requests for comment, actually. They must be busy over there trying to figure out the mayor's own theme song.
Parente says Hernandez' own resignation caught him by surprise. They had met on February 19, and he got the impression that Hernandez would stay until the April mid-year budget review. "The handwriting on the wall said that he wasn't the mayor's choice to be manager," Parente said. "Why would he want to be around for that brutal process?"
Diaz hired Parente in 2002 to create a film office. Before he came on board, producers had to go through the police to snag shooting permits. The office's role has always been largely administrative - to process permit applications to shoot within city limits. But Parente's role was more that of a cheerleader -- to persuade Hollywood producers to stay in town to shoot.
On his first day on the job, he and Manny had lunch with uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Transformers' fascist director Michael Bay. Oh, to be a fly on that wall. "Burn Notice" almost went to shoot in Louisiana - where there were better state incentives - until Parente intervened and suggested they shoot at the Coconut Grove Expo Center. That was four seasons ago.
In those eight years, CSI: Miami, Bad Boys 2, and Marley & Me shot in the city.
"Holistically, of course we make money for the city," Parente said. "When people come here with their productions, they rent equipment, they hire locals - It's a lot of business."
A couple of blogs have fingered Gottlieb as the new film dude, but when contacted, he was coy. "I don't know if I'll be chosen, but it's a good possibility," he said. "I'm not on the clock yet. It's a little premature. You're a couple of days short of the answer you're looking for."
Maria Chavez, Michael Mann's locations manager since the days of "Miami Vice," said Parente was valuable to the city because he already had relationships with many people in the movie business. "I hope the new person is an advocate for the industry," she said. "It's important to have someone with experience in that position."