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East County Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 6 days ago

Manatee County's acting administrator choice looms

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Charles Hines, a former Sarasota County commissioner, says he would like to help Manatee.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

Charles Hines wasn’t sure what to do after his eight-year tenure as Sarasota County commissioner ended in November when he reached his term limit.

Hines, who is a lawyer, said he enjoyed the impact he made on his community while working as a commissioner. After his term expired, he began reaching out to local governments to see if he could land a position that would allow him to make a similar impact.

Then he received a phone call Feb. 4. It was Manatee County Attorney William Clague. He wanted to gauge Hines’ interest in the county’s acting administrator role.

“I’m 55, my mind is still pretty good,” Hines said. “I think I can help.”

Hines indicated he was interested, and the county’s search for an acting administrator began to focus on him. The Manatee County Board of County commissioners voted to direct Clague to begin negotiating with Hines at a Feb. 9 meeting.

Nothing is official yet. Last week, Hines met with several Manatee County commissioners, some of whom he had never spoken with before. He said he will likely meet with the commissioners again this week to begin serious discussions about the position after he and the board get the chance to research each other more and ensure a strong fit.

Then, they will decide if Hines is to be the interim administrator while the county searches for a permanent administrator. If he isn’t a good fit, the county might not have much time to find someone else. The deadline for Clague and current Administrator Cheri Coryea to negotiate a separation agreement is Feb. 23.

Former Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines will again speak with Manatee County commissioners this week to see if he's a good fit for the role of acting administrator.

Clague said at the Feb. 9 meeting there are many functions that can only be completed by the administrator, according to county regulations.

Commissioners Vanessa Baugh and Carol Whitmore worked with Hines while he was a commissioner for Sarasota County. They both said Hines would be a good fit for the job.

“One of the best things that I like about Charles is that he's very good at being able to pull people together,” Baugh said. “I think he will be great at talking to the different personalities. When you have seven people, we each have different personalities. We each have different strengths and weaknesses. He's great at picking up on that, and he will be able to do something about it.”

“With this severe turmoil at the board level now, We need somebody calm,” Whitmore said. “We don't need somebody that knows nothing about government.”

Baugh also said Hines can use his prior experience as a county commissioner to help Manatee County’s new commissioners to continue to learn the intricacies of local government. She said he can help the board find its permanent administrator, considering he has been part of executive searches before.

Former Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines received a phone call Feb. 4 from Manatee County Attorney William Clague, who wanted to gauge Hines’ interest in the county’s acting administrator role.

One of the new commissioners, Kevin Van Ostenbridge, is among those who hadn’t met Hines. Van Ostenbridge said Hines seems nice, but he does have one concern.

“I don't think the public will receive him well because of his close affiliation to (Carlos) Beruff and the development community,” Van Ostenbridge said.

Baugh and George Kruse said the next administrator should come from a private sector background. However, Kruse said Hines could be a good fit on a temporary basis because he’s familiar with the area. Kruse said Sarasota and Manatee counties are in similar situations on topics ranging from demographics to infrastructure to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Hines said the job is alluring because of his familiarity with the area. For one, he has worked with Manatee County before on endeavors such as Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota Bay Estuary and Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. Manatee County is simply part of the area Hines calls home.

“If this proposed job was in Jacksonville?” Hines said. “No, thanks. Pensacola? No, thanks. Miami? No, thanks. That's not what I'm talking about. This is our brother, our sister, our neighbor and people that I've worked with. I've looked at it as, maybe I can help them out in this short period of time. For me, I think it’s as simple as that.”

Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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