When Tomas "Tommy" Gonzalez brought his wife and two young sons last week for a tour of Pasco County, he spent most of the three days in meetings. The family never got to scope out the neighborhoods or evaluate schools, he said.
"I was consumed with meetings," said Gonzalez, whose schedule included a county workshop, a tourism council meeting and sit-downs with government and business leaders. "We really didn't get a good feel for the area."
That, as well as salary issues, was why Gonzalez, 46, said Monday that he declined an offer to be Pasco County's next county administrator.
Gonzalez sent a brief email Saturday to commission Chairman Ted Schrader saying that after "discussing compensation and much consideration, I don't believe this is the best fit for my family and me at this time."
And yet, both sides indicate they might be willing to reopen talks.
Gonzalez, who is paid $246,000 in base salary per year as city manager of Irving, Texas, plus incentives that reports say total $450,000, said the pay in Pasco was lower than in Irving, but he didn't name an acceptable figure during talks.
"I never did throw any numbers out," he said.
Schrader said figures that were discussed were "competitive" with what administrators are paid in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Hillsborough Administrator Mike Merrill is paid $210,000 while Pinellas Administrator Bob LaSala makes $225,000 per year.
Retired Pasco Administrator John Gallagher was paid $180,000. Michele Baker is making $170,000 as Pasco's interim administrator.
"He just never would give me where he thought we needed to be," Schrader said.
Schrader said he would ask commissioners what they wanted to do as a result of Gonzalez's decision. He said he had not been given the authority to begin negotiating with Baker and said the search could be reopened if board members chose that course. The county paid about $24,000 to a Tallahassee recruiter to conduct a national search.
If that happens, he said, Baker would likely not reapply and other candidates could emerge.
At least one commissioner wants the job to go to Baker.
"I would offer the job to Michele," said Pat Mulieri, who said early in the search that Baker was her top choice.
Baker, who served as the chief deputy county administrator since 2007, did not return a message Monday.
Commissioner Henry Wilson Jr. said during the search that he wanted an outsider for the job.
Gonzalez said Monday that he has not accepted an offer elsewhere. He said he stood by his memo but then said he would be willing to reconsider if commissioners allowed him more time to explore the county with his family.
Commissioner Jack Mariano said he sympathized with Gonzalez's plight and would be willing to let the Gonzalez family return for a less structured visit.
"He's a family guy," he said. "There's still a tremendous opportunity for him here."