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Hernando County administrator puts on his 'big boy pants'

Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon seemed to be another quiet, get-along administrator until he called out Hernando County Aviation Authority leader Gary Schraut.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon seemed to be another quiet, get-along administrator until he called out Hernando County Aviation Authority leader Gary Schraut.

I didn't know Len Sossamon had it in him.

He had struck me as a get-along sort of guy, specializing in folksy sayings and conversations about the barbecue of his native North Carolina.

The only thing that interested him more, it seemed, was holding on to his job as Hernando County administrator. He needed that job, I figured, because of a serious business setback a few years ago.

I had him pegged as another Chuck Hetrick, the last administrator able to survive more than a few years in this position, a feat accomplished by not accomplishing much else, by not making waves.

But then what did Sossamon do?

He called out Gary Schraut.

He pointed out that Schraut's Hernando County Aviation Authority really doesn't have much authority at all; it's just an advisory board, Sossamon said, which means Schraut has no right to treat the airport as his "playground."

He said Schraut "needs to put on his big-boy pants and suck it up.''

This all happened more than three weeks ago, which means it's old news. My excuse for writing about it is that I've been away, and that this is a big deal, given the history of this county, and that a lot has happened since.

It's a big deal because Schraut was the one who made the calls that helped persuade a majority of commissioners to push previous administrator David Hamilton out of his job in late 2011.

It's also a big deal because when Sossamon stood up to Schraut, he had the support of at least three commissioners. I don't ever want to doubt the pull of Schraut or the business interests he represents, but I'd say that right now he'd have a hard time getting anybody at the county fired.

And mostly, Schraut has himself to blame for this, not Sossamon.

He's lost credibility by losing his temper at meetings, by denigrating his opponents and by sending an email that with scant evidence tried to say the problems at the airport were Sossamon's fault.

It's not clear, as has been claimed, that Schraut tried to block a Clearwater company from leasing a hangar and office building at the airport; in fact, he made the motion to recommend the lease.

But it is clear that once serious problems showed up at this compound, the county was obliged to fix them. Schraut tried to insist that the company leased it "as is."

The county's duty to make these repairs is even more clear now that the Times' Barbara Behrendt revealed potential problems with the final building inspection and certificate of occupancy.

Yes, those are the responsibility of the county development department. But this was a major project at the airport. You'd think the folks there would be on top of it. That includes Schraut. After all, he gets a lot of credit for good things at the airport.

There have been quite a lot of them, let's not forget, which is one reason it's too early to say he needs to step down.

But it was long past the time that someone needed to remind Schraut of the limits of his authority. That it came from the county administrator is all the better.

Hernando is so in need of stability in that job, we would have welcomed another Hetrick. Most of us would be willing to sacrifice strong leadership for longevity.

Now, maybe, it looks like we could have both.

Hernando County administrator puts on his 'big boy pants' 08/09/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 9, 2013 6:59pm]
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