BROOKSVILLE — As Hernando searches for its next county administrator, land services director Ron Pianta will remain in the role on an interim basis, county commissioners decided Tuesday.
Commissioners also agreed to give an expanded leadership role to the only other county employee who expressed interest in the interim position, chief procurement officer Russell Wetherington.
With critical work to do as the county begins to consider its 2012-13 budget, Wetherington, who has an extensive background in purchasing, can play a key role as the county looks for ways to operate more efficiently, said Commissioner Dave Russell, who proposed the leadership arrangement.
Wetherington has also told commissioners he is interested in applying for the permanent administrator position, which was vacated when the commission fired David Hamilton in early November.
Last month, the commission decided to seek proposals from companies that can help the county with candidate searches and background checks. Because Wetherington is interested in the administrator's job and it would normally be his function to coordinate that task, someone else in his department was put in charge of that function, according to Cheryl Marsden, administrative services director.
Commissioner John Druzbick said that he supported Pianta in the interim role, especially since he has already told commissioners he doesn't want the job permanently.
But while Russell concurred, he also noted that Wetherington has shared some good ideas with commissioners.
"He's hungry,'' Russell said. "He wants the job.''
Pianta has the trust of employees and can run the day-to-day operation of the county, said Russell, who also noted that his suggestion to include Wetherington in the budget preparation was not an attempt to undermine the county's budget director, George Zoettlein.
In addition, Russell said that Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai told him recently that she and the other constitutional officers want to get together with county officials to talk about common budget issues, such as employee benefits, for 2012-13.
Clashes with the constitutional officers were an ongoing theme of budget talks earlier this year and were blamed by some for the recent defeat of the contract the county negotiated with Teamsters Local 79.
Pianta asked for clarification from commissioners that, if they chose him for the interim job, he would be responsible for running county government and there would be no question about who was making decisions.
Russell gave him that assurance.
"You're the man, as far as the substantive day-to-day issues,'' he told Pianta.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.