Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando commissioners set time frame for administrator in economic development job

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 [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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