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Finalist for Hernando County administrator position decides to drop out

BROOKSVILLE — The list of finalists for the job of Hernando County administrator has thinned.

On Tuesday, John Daly, manager-director for the Genesee County Road Commission in Flint, Mich., dropped out of the running, leaving just four finalists to be interviewed by county commissioners next week.

Daly, 67, said that, in retrospect, he didn't think the Hernando position was appropriate for him.

"As I was researching the position, it just didn't seem like a good fit to me,'' Daly said Tuesday afternoon.

He wouldn't specify what he found that made him reconsider his decision to apply for the job, which he said he had seen advertised online. He added that the search firm the county is using, Colin Baenziger & Associates, is "a top-notch consultant in my experience,'' and he predicted that Hernando commissioners would find what they are looking for in the remaining finalists.

Those finalists include Robert Michael "Mike" Herr, who served as Hernando's deputy administrator in the late 1980s and early 1990s and who is currently president of Econ South; Ed Green, who was county manager for Garfield County, Colo., from 1998 until he was dismissed in January; Leonard B. Sossamon, who served as county administrator of Newberry County, S.C., from 2004 through 2006 and city manager of Concord, N.C., from 1985 to 1998; and James E. Wilson, who served in top leadership capacities for Gainesville County, Texas, from 1999 to 2011.

Commissioners did not seem concerned that they now would be choosing from a group of just four.

Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said he understood from Baenziger that Daly decided to leave the field after taking a closer look at County Commission meetings.

"He watched a few of our meetings on the Internet, and he decided he didn't want any part of that,'' Dukes said.

While losing a finalist gives the commissioners fewer choices, Dukes said it was getting pretty late in the process to do much other than consider the remaining candidates, two of whom also have been named finalists for other jobs.

Commissioner John Druzbick said he "would hope that any of the finalists would have done their homework and gone online'' to see what they were getting themselves into before applying for the job.

As for two of the candidates being finalists in multiple locales, Druzbick said he wasn't concerned. He said if they were good enough to be considered for Hernando, they certainly could land on short lists in other places.

Before it was known that Daly had dropped out of contention, during Tuesday's County Commission meeting, former Hernando code enforcement director Frank McDowell urged commissioners to stick with the short list given to them by Baenziger and not expand the list of finalists.

"It's not prudent,'' McDowell said.

McDowell was concerned because Dukes has said that he is keeping an open mind about the applicants, but was concerned that the only internal candidate for the job, chief procurement officer Russell Wetherington, didn't make the short list.

Interim County Administrator Ron Pianta warned commissioners that if they add someone outside of the finalists researched and recommended by Baenziger, they could jeopardize the firm's contractual guarantee.

The guarantee is that if the commission chooses an administrator from Baenziger's list and that person leaves within a year, Baenziger will do another search at no cost. If the person leaves within two years, Baenzinger will do a new search at cost.

Commissioners did not discuss the administrator finalists during their Tuesday meeting. They will meet the remaining four candidates next Tuesday at receptions planned for county leadership and at 5 p.m. for the public at the Hernando County Airport office.

One-on-one interviews with commissioners are slated for April 4 in the morning, and public interviews for 2 p.m. that day in the commission chambers. The commissioners are expected to make a selection by April 10.

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

Finalist for Hernando County administrator position decides to drop out 03/27/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 8:21pm]
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