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Commission approves personnel moves as two leaders depart

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners approved a series of personnel moves Tuesday in the wake of the departures of division directors Jean Rags and Joe Stapf.

The meeting included bittersweet comments about the departures, as well as testimonials from staffers and the public about Assistant County Attorney Jeff Kirk, who died suddenly over the weekend.

In the light of that loss, commissioners agreed to put off until Oct. 25 a discussion about their contract with County Attorney Garth Coller.

Commissioners also recognized and congratulated Elizabeth Callaghan, administrator of the Hernando County Health Department, who announced late last week that she'll retire in January.

Rags, a 12-year employee, announced two weeks ago that she would leave her job as community development director to care for her ailing mother. Stapf, environmental services director and a county employee since early 2008, was hired last week as city engineer and public works director in Northfield, Minn.

Rags and Stapf were members of County Administrator David Hamilton's leadership team.

Commissioners agreed Tuesday to take Rags' recommendation and replace her with Adam Brooks, who has been overseeing the county's library system. Brooks will continue to manage libraries in his new role. In the interim, until the job can be advertised, health and human services employee Veda Ramirez will take over health and human services.

Other employees under Rags will oversee block grants, veterans services and the county extension service.

Hamilton recommended that Susan Goebel, who has been director of transportation services and the old public works functions, take over Stapf's environmental services job.

She had been an engineer in that department before she was tapped to take over public works and the Hernando Beach Channel dredge nearly two years ago.

County commissioners put one condition on her appointment, however. They wanted her to remain in charge of the dredge because of her familiarity with the controversial project.

Commission Chairman Jim Adkins pointed out that with a Dec. 31 deadline to complete the dredge, it would only be two more months.

"With this dredge project,'' Goebel responded, "two months will feel like a lifetime.''

Taking over the director's job at Transportation Services will be the county engineer, Brian Malmberg, who was hired in February to replace Charles Mixson, who had been fired a year earlier. Malmberg will be on probation in the position until he has been with the county for a year.

Stapf spoke highly of Goebel and Malmberg, saying he thought they would be good leaders.

Commissioners were so unhappy to see Stapf's letter of resignation, they first voted not to accept it, then reluctantly did accept it with regrets. Still, Adkins took several opportunities to wish Stapf "a cold winter'' up North.

Goebel and Stapf also presented — and the commission approved — extensive plans to reorganize the departments they're leaving. The changes include realigning functions to reduce costs, shrinking supervisory positions and not filling vacancies.

The organizational changes, along with those Rags recommended, will save the county $652,000.

Another change commissioners had talked about was eliminating the county attorney's position. Tuesday's agenda included time to discuss Coller's job, as well as a new contract that Coller negotiated with Adkins.

In the proposed contract, Coller would take a 7.5 percent pay cut, reducing his base salary from $132,829 to $122,867. In exchange, he would get a three-year contract instead of a one-year deal.

With the loss of Kirk, commissioners decided to put off that discussion until later in the month. Coller asked for permission to immediately advertise to fill the vacant job, and Commissioner Wayne Dukes suggested that could wait until later in the month as well.

But Commissioner John Druzbick spoke up, saying the attorney's office is very busy and things would start to back up and constituents would start calling if Kirk's position isn't filled quickly. The commission agreed to allow the advertisement.

Coller noted also that a former assistant county attorney, Kent Weissinger, has agreed to volunteer his time.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Commission approves personnel moves as two leaders depart 10/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 6:44pm]
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