BROOKSVILLE — County Administrator David Hamilton's plan to shape Hernando County government around fewer top managers received unanimous approval from the County Commission on Tuesday.
The commissioners approved an organizational structure designed to improve efficiency and communication by cutting the number of government divisions to eight from 24.
More efficient operations are expected to trim costs. Additional savings, estimated to be about $500,000 annually, are anticipated when the county offers a voluntary separation agreement to county managers whose jobs are no longer needed under the new structure.
Details of that reorganization are still being developed.
Hamilton's plan is centered around a leadership team of eight division directors representing various county services, plus constitutional officers. During Tuesday's meeting, commissioners insisted that the discussion include all constitutional officers, and they voted to invite all five to the table.
Those officers are Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai, Sheriff Richard Nugent, Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek, Tax Collector Juanita Sikes and Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams.
Nugent expressed his interest in participating in a recent e-mail. Nicolai was present at Tuesday's discussion.
"As chief financial officer of the county, it makes a lot of sense to include the clerk in the whole arrangement,'' she said.
Hamilton described how the team would meet every other week to discuss the important issues that lie ahead.
"We call it the leadership team because we believe that leadership is at the top end. It is at the strategic end of the organization,'' Hamilton said. "It allows us not only to be the managers that you expect us to be on a day-to-day basis, but to move beyond that to the future deployment of our resources to the challenges we face not only in our nation, but our county.''
Among the issues that Hamilton said need early attention: the current budget revenue shortfall, downsizing county government and keeping up staff motivation and morale. The list also includes a look at revising impact fees, a limerock road policy, operational options for the county jail and the creation of a strategic plan to develop infrastructure.
The county is expecting a general fund revenue shortfall of $1.6 million for the current year. It also anticipates collecting $1.7 million less than budgeted in impact fees, $1.9 million less in recycling services and solid waste fees, and nearly $1 million less in development services fees.
Commissioner Rose Rocco questioned how the leadership team members felt about the new structure.
With the county growing as big as it has, county government grew with it, said Charles Mixson, who has been tapped to lead the transportation services division. He said it would be nice to return to the atmosphere that existed in a smaller operation 20 years ago.
"This brings it back to have a nice tight group of people to do the work,'' Mixson said.
"I'm also enthusiastic about the structure that's been proposed,'' said Michael McHugh, who is set to lead the new development services division.
"The idea of us working together as a leadership team to discuss these bigger, more global issues that are facing the county hopefully, as Mr. Hamilton indicated, will lead to some good recommendations — maybe a lot of good ideas to bring back to you to improve the county,'' McHugh told the commission.
Commissioners praised Hamilton's reorganization plan as a good first step to help the county deal with reduced revenue and the economic downturn.
County government "grew too big too fast,'' said Commissioner Jim Adkins. "It's a start to something the taxpayers need.''
Commissioner John Druzbick called the new plan "a bold move to finally right-size government.''
"I know this is a long time coming, sir. We could have used this a long time ago,'' said commission Chairman Dave Russell.
The new leadership team will meet for the first time today.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.