BRADENTON -- At 11:25 p.m. Sunday, Bradenton Downtown Development Director Dave Gustafson did something he said was one of the hardest things he's ever done: hit the send button on an email to the city announcing his resignation effective Oct. 31.
It was six lines thanking the city for the opportunity "to be part of an amazing team. Together, we have accomplished so much."
Gustafson declined to comment on his exact reasons for leaving.
However, the city council's decision to move three community redevelopment agencies -- two of which are overseen by the DDA -- under a single CRA board under city council control, and to create a new economic development director to oversee all of the agencies, left no room for a DDA executive director.
Gustafson wouldn't comment on the city council's decision, preferring to focus on the opportunity he's had since coming to the city from the Manatee County planning department in 2011.
"The future of downtown was incredibly bright, and I saw tremendous opportunities," said Gustafson.
During the CRA transition discussions, it was made clear that the creation of a new economic development depart
ment left Gustafson's future with the city in doubt, especially since he received no support from council members to head the new department.
While Gustafson has not always been on the same page with some council members like Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo and Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff, who both said the position's future was in doubt, Mayor Wayne Poston has a different opinion.
"Dave did a nice job," said Poston. "We worked really well together, and I had a different working relationship with Dave than the council did because I could work with him on a daily basis. We have a mutual respect for one another because we believe in getting the job done."
Poston was an outspoken opponent of the city council's decision to change the structure of the CRAs, which goes into effect Jan. 1.
The mayor said he's keeping an open mind, "but I'm still not convinced it was the best idea for us."
Gustafson is starting his own business as a land development consultant and will be joining Wagner Realty's commercial/residential development division. While he said it was difficult to submit his resignation, "This is something I've always wanted to do. I hold the city council and mayor and DDA board in the highest regard. They gave me a great opportunity and I'll always treasure it."
In the meantime, Gustafson continues to try attracting developers to downtown. He's been talking with three hoteliers and two restaurant owners looking at the downtown area.
"I'm not going to turn my back on the city," he said. "I'll be here for a couple more months, and if I have to continue to work to make these deals happen after Oct. 31, I'll do it. I do things in an unorthodox way. I know I do. I have no problem working seven days a week and failure is never an option when I know we are doing amazing things for this community. When we run into a problem, we go over it, under it or around it, but we'll come up with a solution."
Gustafson played a key role in the success of the inaugural Bradenton Area Riverwalk Regatta. He also received a lot of criticism for devoting too much time to it, although no one ever publicly asked him to stop working on the event. Gustafson maintains that his focus on downtown never let up during the regatta preparations.
Emails from DDA board members have all expressed support, gratitude and well wishes. Gustafson said his new career will take his efforts regionally.
"But we live in Bradenton," he said. "I'll still be able to work and assist the downtown, but from a different angle. I'm not going anywhere and that's the bottom line."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.