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Hernando commissioners set time frame for administrator in economic development job

Administrator Len Sossamon has economic development experience.

Administrator Len Sossamon has economic development experience.

BROOKSVILLE — A week after indicating they wanted County Administrator Len Sossamon to take on the duties of economic development director, Hernando County commissioners on Tuesday revisited the idea.

They ultimately voted to give Sossamon the job, but only for six months — at least for the time being.

A formal job description, contract change and salary increase will come back to the commission for final consideration Jan. 14.

One sticking point was whether the commission should advertise for a permanent economic development director immediately or in three months because a formal search could take some time. The county lost its economic development manager several months ago.

The motion included a delay, for now, in looking for a permanent person to fill the job.

Commissioners and audience members voiced several concerns about what message it would send to potential applicants and potential new businesses if the county were simultaneously letting Sossamon do the job while looking for someone else to fill it.

The discussion grew prickly at several points. Commissioners Diane Rowden and Nick Nicholson both questioned why they were back in discussions when it was clear last week that the board indicated its intent to give Sossamon the job.

Nicholson said he didn't want to do a search because "I already have the best candidate sitting next to me.''

Rowden said the board expected Chairman Dave Russell to negotiate a deal and bring it back for approval.

"You said you heard us loud and clear,'' she said. "Why didn't you do that?"

Russell, who said he'd had second thoughts about the decision, defended his right to bring the issue back to the board. He said there were enough loose ends in commissioners' viewpoints that he needed them to have a longer discussion so he knew what he was negotiating.

"I need some clarity,'' Russell said.

Rowden also questioned why Commissioner Jim Adkins, who originally suggested Sossamon take on the job, was stepping back from that recommendation. Adkins said he didn't want Sossamon doing the job permanently.

"I'm really confused,'' she said of the change in the direction of the discussion.

She expressed concerns that outside interests had been pressuring commissioners to steer away from placing Sossamon in the job.

Rowden noted that the commission can always change direction if Sossoman doesn't work out in the dual role. But with his previous experience in economic development, she said, she was hopeful for his success.

"Give him an opportunity,'' she said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

In other business, the Hernando County Commission on Tuesday:

• Voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting the Brooksville Vision Foundation in its effort to reroute U.S. 41 and U.S. 98 around downtown Brooksville. The plan is designed to convert one-way streets and make downtown more pedestrian friendly. The foundation has not yet made its formal pitch to the Florida Department of Transportation.

• Confirmed the appointment of James F. Friedrichs as the county's new building official. Friedrichs worked for the Hernando County Development Department from 1987 through 2003, then moved to Milwaukee, Ron Pianta, assistant county administrator for planning and development, told the commission.

• Pulled from the agenda a discussion about the county's volunteer liability waiver. It will come up for discussion on Jan. 14. Commissioner Wayne Dukes asked the county staff to gather the policies used in other places. The commissioners also delayed filling positions on four county advisory boards.

• Gave its support to some tweaking of the rules for use of the county's two trash convenience centers. The changes make more clear what the centers can accept. They include a limit of 5 gallons of paint per month, 100 cubic feet of trash per load, no more than 10 cubic feet of heavy materials and no more than two full loads of trash per day. Brochures with the new rules will be distributed at the centers in the coming weeks.

• Voted unanimously to send a letter to the city of Brooksville asking the city, as an act of good faith, to suspend its red-light cameras for two weeks during the holiday season. Commissioner Jim Adkins suggested that the county put up signs spreading holiday cheer at the intersections where the city has cameras on county property. One member of the audience suggested the signs be strategically placed to block the cameras. Commission Chairman Dave Russell thought that was not prudent, but said that didn't mean he didn't like the idea.

Hernando commissioners set time frame for administrator in economic development job 12/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 5:48pm]
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