Pinellas officials have singled out five candidates they think are the best from a field of 55 who applied to be the next head of the county's Animal Services Department.
Among them are the executive director of the Pinellas County Humane Society, a veterinarian and one who has no background in animal care.
"We're looking for a strong leader first and foremost," said Maureen Freaney, an assistant county administrator who is acting as the Animal Services interim director. "The most important thing we need here is a good manager."
That need is so great that officials are willing to overlook a lack of animal-related experience, she said. The goal is to find an innovative thinker who can make the department more efficient.
The director's position came open in December when Phillip Morgan resigned after three months on the job. A human resources investigation found he had made vulgar remarks to employees. Morgan denied the charges, saying he was a victim of a pushback from employees who did not want to make changes.
Freaney said the five will be interviewed Friday. After that, she said, the list will be further reduced to two or three finalists, who will come back next month for more interviews and a "meet and greet" with employees before a choice is made. A new director could be chosen by the end of March.
The five semifinalists are:
• Sarah Brown, 36, has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University and a master's in public administration from Walden University, an online school headquartered in Minneapolis. She has been the executive director of the Humane Society of Pinellas since April 2011. Brown says she wants to change jobs as a way of "exploring other opportunities to help Pinellas County and the homeless pet population."
• Hector Diaz, 46, did three years of undergraduate work in dairy science at Louisiana State University. He earned his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Cornell University. He has worked for Semoran & 408 Pet Doc in Orlando since April 2010. He says he is "looking for a change of pace and wanting to exit private practice."
• Kristina Gulick, 46, has an associate's degree in criminal justice from St. Petersburg Junior College, a bachelor's in criminal justice from Florida Atlantic University, and master's in political science from the University of Central Florida. She has worked at the Broward County Sheriff's Office since December 2001 and serves as the director of the community control department. She wants to change jobs because a "newly elected sheriff brought in his own management staff."
Gulick has no experience in animal services. "However, I do believe my administrative and executive level management skills will translate into running this department efficiently and effectively. I have always had a deep caring for animals and as I look for a new challenge, I believe my passion for the humane treatment of animals and my management skills will complement each other and provide a satisfying experience for myself and the community I serve," Gulick wrote on her application. "I will dedicate myself during and off business hours to learn this honorable profession."
• Adam Leath, 30, holds a bachelor's degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He is a certified animal control officer and a certified euthanasia technician. He has been the Southeast regional director for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals since October 2011. He gave no reason for wanting to change jobs.
• Leslie Tisdale, 54, has an associate's degree in management and supervision from Laney College in Oakland, Calif.; a bachelor's in psychology and consciousness from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, Calif.; a master's in public administration from California State University in Hayward; and a master's in graduate liberal studies from Mills College in Oakland. She holds a certification from the American Humane Association for euthanasia by injection. She has worked for the Palm Springs Police Department since September 2011, first as animal shelter director and currently as animal control director.
She is looking for "job advancement. I still desire to lead a municipal full-service animal care and services agency."
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.