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East County Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019 11 months ago

Manatee County administrator seeks retirement

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Manatee commissioners must decide about hiring process for top-level post.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker has not been bored a day in his life, but he would like to try.

At 71 years old, the Lakewood Ranch resident has been in county government for 51 years, the past 12 of which he spent at Manatee County’s helm. To put his work-life balance into perspective, he has accumulated 31 weeks of unused vacation time.

“I want to see what boredom is,” Hunzeker said. “I could be underestimating my ability to be a slacker. Maybe it will only last an hour, but I’d like to try.”

In December, Hunzeker surprised commissioners by announcing he plans to retire before his contract expires in January 2020. Instead, he plans to retire this spring to spend more time with his family — wife, Sharon, and their three sons and five grandchildren, who live outside the area.

“I don’t want to just see them at Christmastime,” Hunzeker said. “I have graduations coming up.”

Hunzeker said he had agreed to stay around long enough to make sure there is a smooth transition either to an interim or permanent replacement, but he’s ready for a change of pace. He said he does not want to have to worry about anything county related as he goes off to those family adventures. With more than 1,700 employees countywide, there’s always an email to respond to or situation in need of attention.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the next step to finding his replacement — whether by appointing an interim administrator or starting a national search — at their Jan. 22 meeting.

“They’ve got to figure out if they’re going to do a recruitment,” Hunzeker said.

Hunzeker said he believes Manatee County has good in-house candidates, so he doesn’t believe a national search is necessary. He said the government is running efficiently and there are 12 qualified department directors in place.

“Most, if not all of them, could step up to do this,” Hunzeker said. “Why not consider one of them before you hire an unknown?”

When the commission agreed in February 2018 to extend Hunzeker’s contract to Jan. 29, 2020, then-chairwoman Priscilla Whisenant Trace outlined a process in which Hunzeker would confer with the Florida Association of County Administrators about an administrator search, and the recruitment process itself would begin in summer 2019. The commission would meet with prospective candidates in the fall, giving the new hire time to work with Hunzeker for two to three weeks before his departure.

Hunzeker said he has enjoyed his time leading Manatee County, even in recent months when commissioners issued him a reprimand over how the county handled communications with neighbors about a proposed radio tower site at Kinnan Park. He said commissioners set policy and his job is to follow it.

“I’ve enjoyed every bit of it,” Hunzeker said of his time at the county’s helm. “I’m so proud of the (1,700) employees and their commitment to the community.”

Hunzeker said he plans to remain in the area and pursue his interests.

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