Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said Manatee County commissioners will now be running a government that is set up to run more efficiently for its residents.
Hopes, who took his current job in May 2021 after serving as an interim administrator for two months, completed a reshuffling of the county’s departments and responsibilities on Nov. 29 when he hired Mitchell Teitelbaum to be his fourth and final deputy administrator.
Also on Nov. 29, new commissioners Jason Bearden, Mike Rahn and Amanda Ballard took office.
Before Hopes’ hiring, Manatee County utilized two deputy administrators.
Hopes said the reorganization will help the county complete needed work on its infrastructure faster.
“We’ve grown a lot,” said District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh. “We are not the same county we were a year and a half ago. With growth comes the need to react faster.”
Hopes said it’s been several months that his three deputy administrators —Courtney De Pol, Charles Bishop and Robert Reinshuttle — have been overwhelmed with projects. He expects the addition of Teitelbaum to create a more manageable workload
Fewer administrators, more workers
Although Manatee County now has two additional deputy administrators, Hopes said his redesign did not grow the size of the administration.
He said prior to his term, the county had 14 executive positions, while the number now sits at 12. He said the resulting reduction in salary dollars for executive administration has been $270,563.
However, the county has seen a net gain of about 280 employees overall during his tenure.
The system leaves Hopes with six officials reporting to him including De Pol, Bishop, Reinshuttle, Teitelbaum, Chief Financial Officer Sheila McLean and Chief Information Officer Drew Richardson.
Hopes said he had been handling fleet services and transportation responsibilities until Teitelbaum’s arrival.
Teitelbaum’s other primary responsibilities include public records, information outreach, code enforcement and economic development.
Fleet services and transit
The Fleet Services and Transit divisions used to be contained in the Public Works department currently overseen by Bishop. Teitelbaum now assumes those duties.
The fleet includes a large series of county vehicles, which must be managed, maintained, and acquired, while transit involves the beach trolley, the special needs transportation service, and the regular Manatee County Area Transit services.
Hopes said this change has provided the Public Works department with the freedom to focus on roads and bridges. He said in the past 12 months, Public Works has increased its project list by over 105%.
A statement from Public Works Director Chad Butzow said his department now can concentrate more on its project list and it provides senior leadership with the ability to focus on those projects while providing better direction.
Changes to the utilities department began with the retirement of former Utilities Director Mike Gore, on Aug. 2, and have continued since.
Hopes said two critical positions in utilities have been filled, with new director Evan Pilachowski, who was appointed Oct. 9, as well as a new deputy director of solid waste, The new deputy director of solid waste is Rebecca Kwiatkowski.
After Gore’s retirement, his role had originally been filled by Director Jeffrey Goodwin, as well as Deputy Director Kevin Morris.
However, Goodwin retired from the county in October.
Hopes said Goodwin had “stepped up to the plate” as an employee, but said he felt the position of utilities director required an engineering background, while Goodwin brought an undergraduate degree in biology as well as years of experience working his way through the department.
Pilachowski possesses a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in civil engineering. He is certified as a Professional Engineer in New York and will soon be certified in Florida as well.
“One of the most important aspects of both the redesign and reorganization is to dramatically elevate the quality of the experience and education of the leadership team,” Hopes said.
The 62-year-old Hopes said with younger individuals such as Pilachowski, and Deputy Director of Utilities Courtney De Pol, who is also a deputy county administrator, he hopes to have staff who can serve the county long-term.
“These are all individuals that I will have an opportunity to mentor and prepare to be the future leaders of Manatee County government,” he said.
Another major change that has occurred, Hopes said, is that all planning functions have been centralized.
Planners from departments such as utilities, transit and transportation are now interacting, he said, while previously, projects would go from planner to planner without significant direct interaction.
“You had paper moving back and forth, all around the county, and it was just stifling effectiveness,” he said.
He said once an ongoing renovation of the county administration building reaches its completion, planning staff will be housed on one dedicated floor. Hopes described the change as allowing staff to “sit around a table together.”
He also said the county had completely filled a 50% to 60% vacancy among planners that existed earlier in his tenure.
Hopes additionally said that he had moved parts of the department of Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity to Community and Veterans Services.
He said he also began utilizing more services of the private Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, downsizing the county’s department of Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity by nine employees for a reduction in $800,000 in salary.
Baugh said the new system, due to its use of numerous deputy administrators, would provide a more efficient response during public interactions with the county.
She said the deputy county administrators have more freedom to address the concerns of the public than department directors.
At-large Commissioner Jason Bearden said he likes the redesign.
“One of the things I like to look at, is, how can we be more effective? How can we bring the best services to the residents of Manatee County, at the highest level?” he said.
He said it is important to reduce the workload on upper management.
Hopes said the county had planned to perform an employee satisfaction study in order to receive feedback on the redesign.
Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.