BROOKSVILLE — The search firm hired by the county to help find a new administrator has winnowed the list of 88 applicants to five finalists, including a former deputy administrator for Hernando County.
The list includes Robert Michael Herr, who served as deputy administrator from 1987 to 1992 and has since worked in Lakeland and as Polk County manager.
The other finalists are from out of state. They are John H. Daly III, who is the manager-director of the Genesee County Road Commission in Flint, Mich.; Ed Green, who served as county manager for Garfield County, Colo., from 1998 until January; Leonard B. Sossamon, who was county administrator of Newberry, S.C., from 2004 through 2006; and James E. Wilson, who held several top administrative jobs in Galveston County, Texas, including director of finance and administration.
Colin Baenziger, who was hired by the County Commission to find a new administrator, released extensive packets of information to commissioners on Wednesday which detailed each applicants' work history, education, background, reference and credit checks, newspaper clips about their work experiences and notes from interviews conducted by his firm's staff.
The interviews included a question about why they were leaving their current job or why they left their last job and the answers provided some insight into the individuals and their work history.
Wilson had worked in a job comparable to a county manager's position from 1999 to 2008 in Galveston County and in 2008 spoke to his supervisor about moving on to the private sector. Two weeks later, his community was devastated by Hurricane Ike and he announced he wanted to stay to help with the cleanup. He elevated one of his people to take on his job, then switched to take over the housing department, where the need was the greatest.
He stayed for two years helping the community through the crisis, then took that private-sector job in Alaska. He told the interviewer that now he really wanted to return to his true passion, local government.
Sossamon, who spent years in city and county management in the Carolinas, announced his plan to leave Newberry because he needed to care for his ill father and his mother. The commissioners there insisted he take a leave of absence, which he did for a time, but after six months he quit.
His father has since died and his mother is in a stable setting. Sossamon told the interviewer he is now ready to return to public administration full time.
Herr said he left his Polk County manager's job to test his abilities in the private sector. But he realized early on that he wanted to be back in government management. He is also now facing a layoff in June for economic reasons.
After 13 years managing Garfield County, Green was let go by his board because its members wanted to be more involved in running the county and he didn't fit with that plan, he told the interviewer.
While Daly said he has enjoyed success with the Genesee County Road Commission, he also said he was ready to move on and do something new. Under no pressure to leave his current job, he said he was "intrigued by the challenges the Hernando County position would bring.''
The only internal applicant for the job, the county's chief procurement officer, Russell Wetherington, did not make the cut.
That surprised County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes. He said he wanted to know more about that, but that he was remaining open-minded about the finalists for the position.
Commissioner Dave Russell was also interested in hearing more.
"I'd like to know what part of the vetting process excluded him,'' he said.
If the commissioners want to, they can add Wetherington to the list of finalists, Commissioner Jim Adkins said.
Having five applicants to choose from was comforting to Commissioner John Druzbick. The last search for an administrator ended up with just two people being interviewed. "I'm hoping someone is going to shine very brightly,'' he said. "Hopefully someone really fits in for Hernando County at this time.''
The county leadership team is slated to meet with the finalists on the afternoon of April 3, and the public and community leaders can attend a reception at 5 p.m. that day at the Hernando County Airport office.
County commissioners will meet individually with each finalist on the morning of April 4, with formal public interviews before the commission that afternoon. The commission is expected to fill the job by April 10. The new administrator, who will be the ninth the county has employed since 1990, will replace David Hamilton, who commissioners fired in November, saying they had lost faith in him.
Ron Pianta has been serving in the role on an interim basis.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.