Hillsborough administrator gets mostly passing marks from commissioners
Mike Merrill has had to oversee layoffs and wholesale budget cuts due to a sagging economy during his first year as Hillsborough County’s full-time administrator.
County commissioners appear pleased with the job he’s done of it, giving him largely good grades on his first evaluation Wednesday.
On a scale of 1 to 5, they scored him an average of 3.43 in performance categories ranging from leadership to strategic management, meaning they think he’s somewhere between meeting expectations and exceeding them. He scored slightly higher on specific performance measures.
“I’ll just state that despite the fact that there was fierce resistance for changing the leadership here at County Center, you came in, you took the ship, you righted it and you put us on, I believe, the correct course,” said Commissioner Mark Sharpe.
In keeping with what other county employees are experiencing, however, commissioners elected not to give him a raise, keeping his salary at $195,000.
Commissioners scored Merrill most favorably in financial resource management. His past experience as the county’s trusted debt management director helped lead to him being tapped as interim county administrator early last year when predecessor Pat Bean came under scrutiny for awarding dubious pay raises.
Merrill got less favorable remarks in the area of responsiveness to commissioners’ concerns, with Sandra Murman, Victor Crist, Les Miller and Kevin Beckner giving him a score of two, meaning he failed to meet their expectations. Murman, Crist and Miller, each former legislators, have just completed their first year on the board.
“While I’ve seen improvement in this area over the past few months, I believe Mr. Merrill could be more up front in his communication with me and my staff,” wrote Crist, who was Merrill’s harshest evaluator.
Unlike in recent past years, when sometimes a majority of commissioners would fail to submit written evaluations of their top appointees, all seven filled them out this year. The evaluation form was also revamped to evaluate the administrator on specific objectives, with him providing a self-evaluation as well.
Merrill thanked commissioners and his staff for their guidance and help in his new job.
“I’m just a novice at this,” he said.
He confirmed during a break in the meeting that he will be moving back to Hillsborough County by the end of the year to fulfill a charter requirement that he maintain residency here. Merrill had moved to Clearwater shortly before taking the job full time and commissioners gave him a year to move back to Hillsborough.
He said he will live in Westchase.