BROOKSVILLE — When Hernando County lost its business development manager to the private sector in August, county commissioners embarked on a nationwide search to find a replacement with a proven track record.
They found that person Tuesday, and he had been sitting in the room with them all along.
Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to allow County Administrator Len Sossamon to take on the role of economic development director in addition to his job of running the county, at least on a trial basis.
When Sossamon was hired, part of the appeal, commissioners said at the time, was his experience as both administrator and economic development point person in his old job in Concord, N.C. Among his accomplishments there was developing the city's airport and industrial areas.
After a national search to replace Michael McHugh, 31 applicants were narrowed to just two to be interviewed in person. The interviewers — including Sossamon, his staff, commissioners and local business leaders — decided neither one was the right fit.
On Tuesday, Sossamon asked what to do next.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes suggested hiring a professional recruiter, which is how the commission found Sossamon nearly two years ago.
But Commissioner Jim Adkins suggested that Sossamon be tapped for the job because he had done it before, even if just temporarily. In his current job, he has already been involved in some economic development activities, he said.
Commissioner Nick Nicholson said he had been talking to Sossamon about the possibility for months. "He's got the track record,'' he said.
"I'm in agreement,'' said Chairman Dave Russell, as long as Sossamon didn't find that he was "spreading himself too thin.''
Sossamon thanked the board and members of the public who spoke up in favor of the idea. He said he was happy to take on the challenge and would let commissioners know if he was in over his head.
The choice takes the county in a different direction, one that puts the administrator in a more active business recruitment role. In recent months, there has been a tug of war between the county's airport and the administrator's office for control of the airport's industrial components.
A proposal for how the new job will work will be negotiated between Sossamon and Russell and be brought back to a future meeting.