Editor's note: It was incorrectly reported that interim deputy county administrator will be returning to Health and Human Services. Little plans to retire.
Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid enjoys his job. That’s good for him, because overseeing 2,000 employees and hundreds of government facilities leaves little time to think of anything else.
In fact, Reid finds it difficult to say what he does for leisure. “I can make up some pretty good-sounding answers,” he said, “but I’m probably thinking about work.”
That dedication is a good thing for Sarasota County, as well. In the middle of Reid preparing his first county budget, Sarasota County Procurement Official Mark Thiele resigned and Tropical Storm Debby forced Reid to declare a local state of emergency. That’s some half-year celebration for the 57-year-old Ohio native, who left the same position in Alachua County after 12 years, to take over a county reeling from a procurement scandal.
“Sarasota is a premier county,” Reid said. “And, one of my goals coming in was to remind people we’re a premier county.”
That began with an ethical overhaul of the organization in which Reid sent government staff a two-page set of guidelines to ethical work habits and procedures. The main points: honesty and transparency are sacred.
“We want to try to excel in terms of giving good customer service,” Reid explained. “And lying isn’t part of good customer service.”
The ethical focus comes from Reid’s background as a lifelong Boy Scout and Rotary Club member, he said. But, the 2011 procurement scandal that led to one criminal conviction and 10 lost government jobs motivated his early efforts to change the culture of the county government.
An ethics investigation regarding Thiele’s handling of a procurement project, and his subsequent resignation, dented that goal. However, the aftermath is muted compared with last year’s procurement issue, signifying that the organizational changes ushered in under Reid caught the disparity before any serious monetary or legal damage occurred.
Most employees welcomed Reid’s adjustments, he said, but change always creates some backlash.
“You can have a quick stimulus and people respond,” he said. “But, for cultural change, it’s the slow dripping water torture of ‘I’m not going to stop this until there’s resolution.’”
Getting to know the 2,000 employees he oversees was another hurdle Reid faced after he was hired.
“I respect small-business people, but this isn’t a small business,” he said. He tours county facilities and meets employees along the way, but with the $834 million budget approval looming at the end of summer, he’s pared that aspect of his schedule.
“(Working through) the budgeting functions is easy, because I’ve been doing it for 37 years,” Reid said. “But the specific allocation (of funds) and what were doing here, in terms of programs, takes a lot of time.”
In February, Reid had yet to decide the fate of five interim directors — nearly half of the 13 directors on his staff.
After six months at his position, Reid told the Pelican Press he would recommend the appointment of four of those interim directors for permanent positions.
“We’ve already gone over the budgeting (for permanent appointments), and it will be on the upcoming agenda,” he explained.
But the search will continue for a new procurement official and a deputy county administrator, because Interim Deputy County Administrator Bill Little plans to retire this fall. Reid said he would prefer to personally know the candidate for the procurement official position, a search he hopes to finish by the end of July. The county is also seeking a director of communication and civic engagement.
Besides tweaking the 2013 fiscal year budget during County Commission meetings during the summer, Reid is also focused on land-use issues, such as county-owned property and transportation-friendly development.
Bus rapid transit, commonly referred to as BRT, is a development strategy aimed at planning express Sarasota County Area Transit bus routes to fit future development.
“It’s really economic development and land use,” he said. “It’s not just transporting people.”
Technology is another item on Reid’s six-month agenda. He authorized a stipend for county government workers to bring their personal smart phones to work. Phones with email capability encourage communication, Reid said.
“It’s not just writing memos — it’s a job where I can talk to somebody about how to raise someone’s self esteem or build a new downtown,” Reid said. “It’s never boring.”
Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid taps into his history as a Boy Scout in his decision-making, as well as, the ethical standards he set for county workers.
He rattled off, with gusto, the 12 values of Scout Law in an interview with the Pelican Press: from trustworthy to reverent. And having a Scout at the head of a county government during hurricane season means preparedness is the mantra this summer.
“It was a kids’ game that I carried on through adulthood,” he said.