BROOKSVILLE — County Administrator David Hamilton has earned a solid B in his first formal evaluation with praise from his bosses for the way he is improving county operations.
The applause came mixed with criticism from some commissioners over the way Hamilton communicates with them and conflicting comments for the way he has handled several high-profile employee discipline controversies.
One commissioner gave Hamilton extra credit for cleaning house while another admonished him for making these important personnel issues public.
Evaluation forms for Hamilton's first six months released Thursday give him an average score of four points out of five from county commissioners. A score of four translates into a rating of an employee that "exceeds standards.''
The ratings are the first indication of how commissioners feel Hamilton has weathered the parade of challenges he has faced since his March arrival from Crow Wing County, Minn.
In that time, he's juggled major controversies in human resources, utilities, emergency management and public works while trying to reorganize the county's structure and deal with massive budget cuts.
"I'm pleased and humbled at the support that I have received from the county board,'' Hamilton said Thursday. While the first six months has been challenging, he said, "I'm pleased that they believe we've come this far.
Hamilton's highest marks came from Commissioner Jeff Stabins, who gave him extra credit for his handling of disciplines for "errant individuals.''
Since his arrival, Hamilton has fired the emergency management director, forced the human resources director to resign, suspended the public works director, among other disciplinary decisions.
Stabins also wrote that Hamilton "has brought a strong sense of command for dealing with long term, festering issues in the organization. His take-charge attitude is refreshing.''
Commissioner Rose Rocco gave the lowest score. She and David Russell were not in favor of hiring Hamilton when he was first interviewed.
She chided Hamilton by marking his communication skills as "needs improvement'' and specifically suggested, "advise commission prior to actions taken in regard to discipline or suspension.''
Rocco also suggested that he "work towards better communications and build morale with department directors and staff which will improve productivity.''
Rocco's lower marks on communication were repeated on other commissioner forms as well. Commissioner Diane Rowden remarked, "I would like to see commissioners advised of issues prior to the media.''
Commissioner Chris Kingsley took that a step further, saying "keep personnel issues in house.''
Stabins suggestion to Hamilton was "emphasis on listening skills.''
Hamilton said, "I'm a believer that there is always room for improvement'' and he said he will redouble his efforts "to perform even higher levels of performance in the future.''
He said criticism of communication with the board was a fair comment. "Communication always requires work,'' he said.
Overall, he said, "with just six months, I think it's fair to surmise that we're off to a good start,'' adding, "we've been through a lot of upheaval.''
Among his recent initiatives, he has been trying to get projects started that have been stalled for some time including the long-awaited dredging of the Hernando Beach channel and cleaning up the contaminated site of the old county public works compound.
"We've got to stop working on the infinity plan,'' he said. "My job is to get things done.''
Hamilton has said repeatedly that his job is also to change the culture of county government and that has required fixing some systemic problems, a process that has been painful. He noted that he didn't want his time leading Hernando County to be seen as a "reign of terror.''
"Change makes people uncomfortable,'' he said. "I happen to like it.''
The commissioners' evaluations also reflect on Hamilton's leadership and direction.
"David is leading the charge to change the way the county government works and improve citizens' perception of government,'' Rowden wrote.
Kingsley praised Hamilton because "he has provided clear leadership subsequent to several years of turmoil.''
While Russell notes it is still very early to know whether Hamilton is effective as an administrator in some areas, "to date he has proven himself to be a capable and motivated administrator, far exceeding expectations.''
Russell goes on to encourage Hamilton to "continue on the course he has charted, implementing efficiencies, cutting spending, increasing accountability and restructuring accordingly.
"Continue along at the same rate and in the same vein,'' wrote Stabins, "and the county will be a better place in which to live.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.