The second-in-command for Pinellas County's work force board has emerged as the top pick to run a similar organization serving Pasco and Hernando counties.
Jerome Salatino of Palm Harbor became the top contender after five finalists were interviewed Wednesday by the executive committee of the Pasco Hernando Jobs and Education Partnership. Salatino must be approved by the full board in order to be hired. The board's next meeting is Dec. 17.
Salatino, 40, was among 21 applicants to replace longtime chief Lee Ellzey, who was fired in June after a whistle blower's complaint turned up allegations of nepotism and mismanagement of money used for work force training for a company owned by then-board chairman Steve Jensen.
Jensen resigned from the work force board after the investigation became public. The case was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review for possible criminal charges. That case remains pending.
The Pasco Hernando work force board handles federal and state employment programs and contracts with a company to maintain one-stop centers charged with matching job seekers with employers. Since the recession and the passage of the federal stimulus package, the agency has seen its budget balloon from $6 million to $13 million.
Ken Russ, who has served as the agency's interim president since Ellzey's removal, was also among the five finalists interviewed Wednesday.
Salatino's application cited nine years with WorkNet Pinellas, where he has served as director of planning and development since 2002.
He was responsible for directing strategic planning, procurement and contract negotiations, overseeing and analyzing operations, policies and procedures, training grant writing, marketing and community outreach among other things, according to his application.
Before that, he was director of one-stop operations for Goodwill Industries of the Suncoast for two years and also worked as a quality assurance manager for Lockheed Martin.
He graduated from Clearwater High School and Santa Fe Community College and received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Florida, according to his resume.
Among the accomplishments his resume listed: Improving the image of the agency in the community with a re-branding initiative, raising staff morale, cutting building costs by 40 percent and overhead by $1 million over three years and increasing the number of qualified nurses to address a regional work force shortage by heading a consortium that received more than $1 million in grant money to train 179 nurses for HCA and Baycare health systems.