Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough administrator hires Plant City manager as his No. 2

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill has poached the city manager of Plant City to be his No. 2, he announced Friday as part of a broad reorganization of the county's top leadership.

Greg Horwedel, who has overseen Plant City government since 2010, will become deputy county administrator. He'll handle many day-to-day duties, Merrill said, freeing Merrill to focus on major policy issues facing the county like transportation, economic development and homelessness.

Merrill lauded Horwedel's integrity in an interview Friday.

As evidence of that, he pointed to how Horwedel handled the recent allegation that Plant City's police chief was having an affair with a woman on the city's dime.

Horwedel suspended the chief, hired an outside investigator and then fired the chief when the investigation concluded he'd lied.

"He has just superb judgment and common sense, and the ability to grasp complex issues," Merrill said. "He's a problem-solver."

Horwedel, 52, will earn $180,000 per year, an increase over the $135,000 he made in Plant City. His hire, and a restructuring of Merrill's executive team, all are pending approval by the County Commission.

"This will allow Mike to really function as a CEO," said Commissioner Sandy Murman. "It's the mark of a really good administrator to always be thinking about evolving your organization."

That evolving will mean substantial raises for several of Merrill's top employees, and a demotion and pay cut for one.

The promotions:

• Carl Harness will be promoted from director of children's services to chief human services administrator, and see his salary go from $150,587 to $165,000.

• Dexter Barge will be promoted from code enforcement director to assistant county administrator, and see his salary go from $135,532 to $150,000.

• Tom Fass will be promoted from director of real estate and facilities management services to assistant county administrator, and see his salary go from $135,511 to $150,000.

• Ron Barton will be promoted from director of economic development to assistant county administrator, and see his salary go from $135,511 to $150,000.

After years without raises, most county employees got a raise last year of 3.5 percent. These raises are all close to 10 percent. County commissioners gave Merrill a 3.5 percent raise in February, taking his salary from $210,000 to $217,350.

With Horwedel's addition, Deputy County Administrator Sharon Subadan will be demoted to assistant county administrator, and take a pay cut from $165,641 to $160,000.

Before taking the job in Plant City, Horwedel had been county administrator in Dinwiddie County, Va., and had served as director of development services in Sarasota. Hillsborough will be, by far, the largest government organization for which he's worked. Horwedel said Friday he's not intimidated.

"If you treat people fairly, deal in facts, and make objective decisions, there's really no mystery," he said. "I've had a track record of success everywhere I've been."

Horwedel expects his last day in Plant City to be in April, pending City Commission approval.

David Sollenberger, his predecessor, has expressed interest in serving as interim city manager until a new one is hired, Horwedel said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or [email protected]

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