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Mike Merrill reorganizes county's executive staff, hires away Tampa finance director

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill has cut down and reshaped his executive staff to make it more responsive and save money.

The reorganization includes the hiring of two people with varied government experience to handle newly created jobs.

Helene E. Marks will become Merrill's chief of staff at a salary of $155,000 a year. She is a lawyer in private practice who previously worked as chief deputy to former Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson and as general counsel to former Hillsborough Clerk of Court Richard Ake.

Bonnie M. Wise, the city of Tampa's chief financial officer for nearly eight years, will become the county's chief financial officer. She will be paid $160,000 annually, the same as her city salary.

"It's good to have a couple of people with solid government experience coming in here with fresh eyes," Merrill said Monday.

He also named Lucia Garsys to be deputy county administrator for infrastructure and development services and Sharon Subadan as deputy county administrator for public safety and community services. Both will make $155,000 a year, a 12 percent raise for Garsys and a 14.7 percent raise for Subadan.

Merrill estimates the reorganization will save the county about $195,000 a year.

That's because he is eliminating three top positions formerly held by Carl Harness, by Merrill himself and by Manus O'Donnell. Harness left for a job with Pinellas County, Merrill took over the administrator's job after Pat Bean left the county and O'Donnell volunteered to have his job eliminated.

Merrill plans to present the plan to commissioners on Feb. 16, but he's briefed them already.

"From what I've heard, I think he's picked the best people to support him during what's going to be a difficult and challenging year for all of us," commission Chairman Al Higginbotham said.

In a 35-page memo to commissioners, Merrill said he wanted to make the changes because in recent months it has become "clear to me that county government needs to be reshaped in order to be a more streamlined operation."

The reorganization cuts the number of people who report directly to the administrator, brings together departments to foster collaboration and delegates more authority and decision-making to the department level, he added.

As planned, Marks, Wise, Garsys and Subadan will report directly to Merrill. In turn, Marks will supervise human resources, professional development, communications and the county's television operation, legislative, neighborhood and community liaisons and government administration services.

Wise will oversee strategic planning, business and support services, information technology, affordable housing and economic development.

Garsys will manage public works, facilities management, public utilities, customer services, development services, real estate and code enforcement.

Subadan will supervise family and aging services, libraries, co-op extension services, parks and recreation, public safety services and fleet services.

Wise said she's excited about the opportunity.

"Hillsborough County is bigger than some states, so it's really a terrific opportunity to continue to serve the public and to work under a new administration that I think is making a lot of positive changes," she said.

Wise joined Mayor Pam Iorio's administration in the spring 2003, soon after Iorio was elected. Before then, she was senior vice president at William R. Hough & Co. in St. Petersburg, with 16 years of experience working on public finance projects. Her clients included Tampa Bay Water, the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County government, where she worked with Iorio's husband, who was Pinellas' budget director at the time.

Iorio described Wise as a "very dedicated public servant" who has worked on major projects, helped the city save millions of dollars through her expertise with the municipal bond market and is "very conservative with the dollar."

"She's been a complete pleasure to work with," Iorio said.

Mike Merrill reorganizes county's executive staff, hires away Tampa finance director 02/07/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 7, 2011 11:17pm]
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