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East County Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2021 1 year ago

Piney Point spills into Manatee County administrator search

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Commissioners said Manatee County needs stability before starting search for permanent administrator.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

The current Piney Point disaster, among other urgent matters occupying Manatee County, could cause a delay in commissioners beginning the search for a permanent county administrator.

“I don't think for it to drag on any longer than necessary is good for anybody,” District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said of the search for a permanent administrator. “I don't think it's good for our citizens. It's not good for our staff. It's certainly not good for the county commission.

"But we need to make sure that we have a path to take and know how we want to lead the county forward.”

Baugh estimated the process for finding a new administrator might not begin for two to three months as she said the commissioners have their hands full with the Piney Point emergency.

Commissioner George Kruse said he would like the search for a new administrator to begin after the commission's recess ends July 23.

He said waiting until then would provide the county some stability while it handles the Piney Point emergency, ramps up its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, continues working through CARES Act funds and negotiates the budget process for the next fiscal year.

“We've gone through, obviously, a lot of ebbs and flows in these first four months,” Kruse said of his term. “At some point, some sort of stability is good so I'm not in a rush to say, ‘OK, come Monday, I'm getting in touch with Kim Stroud in the HR department and starting that process.”

It took 132 days after first voting to consider termination of former Administrator Cheri Coryea’s contract, before the Commission chose Manatee County School Board member Scott Hopes at its new interim administrator at an April 1 land use meeting.

Hopes signed a one-year contract.

Manatee County School Board member Scott Hopes was selected as interim administrator April 1. Commissioners say the county needs some stability before searching for a permanent administrator.

Although Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said he would like to see how things go with Hopes over the summer, he said it makes sense for the county to begin gauging the interest of possible candidates for the permanent administrator position. Van Ostenbridge said he would urge Hopes to apply for the permanent position.

Hopes told the Observer during the interim administrator search process that commissioners should go forward with their plans for a permanent administrator search even if they loved the job he was doing.

“I know everybody in that search is going to be compared to my performance,” Hopes said. “They're either going to be able to demonstrate that they've had greater success in a similar situation than I have had in the previous six months or 12 months, or not. I like competing. I am all for competition. The whole objective is to ensure that the taxpayers get the best value for their money. Whatever that is.”

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she suspects the Commission will begin the process of searching for a permanent administrator in the next two to three months.

Kruse has suggested the county hire a private search firm to conduct a nationwide search for the new administrator. Van Ostenbridge and Baugh said the search might be limited to Florida.

“Florida has its own special needs, as well as its own special features,” Baugh said. “We need to make sure that we have, in my opinion, someone that's very familiar with the state and state laws, as well as federal laws. They can come in and take us from being this sleepy little town, which we've always been, to the next step where we are today with the growth that we've seen. It's going to take a special person for that position.”

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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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