'No learning curve for me': Mark Isackson ready to take over as Collier County manager in May

Brittany Carloni
Naples Daily News
Mark Isackson was selected in March to be the next Collier County manager.

Mark Isackson began his career in public service in the suburbs of Chicago. 

His first role, as assistant village manager of Brookfield, Illinois, in 1985, was less than 20 minutes away from where he was born and raised in Melrose Park. 

Outside of a four-year stint in Norway, Michigan, his first 17 years in local government were in managerial roles in Illinois communities outside of Chicago. 

He served as the assistant village manager for LaGrange, the village administrator of South Elgin and the village manager for Carpentersville. 

In just one month, Isackson will add another title to his resume: Collier County manager. 

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Isackson, the current corporate financial and management services director for Collier, was selected in March by the Collier County commissioners to be the successor to Leo Ochs, who will retire at the end of May. 

He was chosen from 35 applicants and was one of five finalists for the job. 

“I thought I could be very competitive and it would be nice to close out my career like I started my career,” he said. 

Budget 'mastery'

Isackson received his masters degree in public administration with a fiscal emphasis from Northern Illinois University in 1984, according to his resume. 

“I just didn’t want to go into business,” he said. “I wanted to find something else that I thought might be more rewarding.”

Isackson started working in Collier County in 2004 as a management and budget analyst. 

In 2009, around the time of the Great Recession, Ochs said he needed help and tapped Isackson to step into a leadership role in the county’s financial department, Isackson said. 

Mark Isackson was selected in March to be the next Collier County manager.

He has served as the director of the department since then, helping get Collier to what he says is “one of the most preeminent financial operations of any county in the state of Florida.” 

Commission Chairwoman Penny Taylor said she chose Isackson because of his “mastery” of the budget. 

“Mark has baptism by fire. He was involved with the county in 2008 when the economy just crashed,” Taylor said. “Having a county that’s so dependent on property taxes and having those property tax values plummet the way they did, to go through that and come out where we are now speaks volumes of his mastery of what he has done.”

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Commissioner Bill McDaniel said Isackson is a significant part of Collier’s financial position. 

“Mr. Isackson has largely led that charge to provide for the financial stability Collier County has today,” McDaniel said. “The benefits that come along with that allow us to not have to borrow when a pandemic or a hurricane shows up.”

'It's an honor'

Isackson said he submitted his resume for the county manager role because he wanted to give the County Commission the opportunity to choose an internal candidate. 

He calls the commission’s selection of him “an honor.” 

Under Isackson’s contract with Collier County, his official start date as manager is May 3. His annual base salary is set at $230,000, according to the contract. 

“There will be no learning curve for me,” he said.

Native to the region, the wild turkey was adopted as Collier County's emblem by the Board of County Commissioners at their first meeting held on July 7, 1923.  When the county seat was relocated to East Naples in 1962, the emblem was incorporated into the County seal that was designed by Margaret T. Scott.  Scott was Clerk of Courts from 1959 until 1976.

Isackson recognizes the importance of this role to the county, he said. 

“When you’re the county manager, every decision that you make has repercussions, has consequences,” he said. “I won’t take that lightly. But it’s your neck on the line, too, and obviously, I know that, from having been in positions before. There are consequences to everything you do.”

He plans to make announcements of his leadership team, such as department heads and deputy county manager or managers, during that first week, he said.

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Isackson’s priorities for the county include budget and finance and ensuring a sustainable organizational structure for the government, he said. 

“The structure is the engine and the budget and finances are the fuel that runs that,” he said. 

Communication between the manager and the commissioners is also on his list of vision items for the county, as well as making sure Collier is taking advantage of ways to market itself, like through Collier TV, Isackson said. 

His plans for the organization include finding talent already within county government, “diamonds in the rough,” and lifting them up, he said.

“There are a lot of people in the organization. We’ll find them and we’ll give them increased responsibility so their skill sets and traits will blossom,” he said. 

Isackson will serve in the county manager role through May 2024, according to his contract. 

No matter how long he serves as county manager, he wants to leave Collier better than when he started, he said. 

“Any manager who comes into an organization wants to leave the organization in a better position than when they took the job, whether it’s financially or structurally, whether it’s board relations,” Isackson said. 

“That’s not only an objective I have, but most public managers have. They always want to leave the organization in a better position. I’m confident that will happen.”

Brittany Carloni is the city of Naples reporter at the Naples Daily News. Support her work by subscribing to our local news organization. Find her on Twitter as @CarloniBrittany.