Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco commissioners tap Texas official for county administrator

DADE CITY — Pasco commissioners looked at Tomas "Tommy" Gonzalez and saw a man who could elevate this bedroom community into a player in the Tampa Bay region.

As city manager of Irving, Texas, Gonzalez boasted of attracting 20,000 jobs since beefing up economic incentives. He has maintained the city's top bond rating and won the 2012 Malcolm Baldridge Award, a national honor that recognizes efficiency and quality for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to select Gonzalez, 46, as the next county administrator, pending contract negotiations and a background check. He would succeed John Gallagher, who retires Friday after 31 years at the helm.

"I think it's a bold move," Commissioner Henry Wilson said. "This is how I think the county needed to go."

In the meantime, however, they turned to another finalist for the job — chief assistant county administrator Michele Baker — to serve as interim administrator until Gonzalez comes on board. Commissioners approved raising Baker's pay from $125,000 to $150,000 while she performs the extra duties. Baker could not be reached for comment after Tuesday's meeting.

The board had interviewed four finalists last week: Gonzalez, Baker, Hillsborough County director of strategic planning Eric Johnson and former Escambia County administrator Randy Oliver.

As the debate began Tuesday afternoon, it was quickly apparent that Gonzalez was the frontrunner.

"I'm a big fan of (Baker). I think she's bright, intelligent and a good leader," Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said. "But I think that the opportunity that we have with (Gonzalez) is extraordinary. He has a track record I just can't ignore. But I would not want to lose (Baker)."

Wilson echoed that sentiment and said Baker, 51, could learn a lot from working with Gonzalez.

"Gonzalez could bring us to the next level," Wilson said.

Commissioners also wanted someone who would stay for more than two years. Commissioner Jack Mariano noted that Gonzalez had said he wanted to move to a place where he could raise his children — a place to settle down for good.

"I really like his energy," Mariano said. "He's looking for something great to do."

Not everyone was sold on Gonzalez. Commissioner Pat Mulieri lobbied for Baker, praising her expertise and work ethic. Mulieri raised questions about Gonzalez's demeanor.

"I felt a certain arrogance," she said.

"I don't think we should bring in someone from the outside," she added.

Commissioner Ted Schrader was also skeptical, saying Gonzalez had not clearly articulated what he would do for Pasco County.

He also cautioned against comparisons between Irving, a close suburb of Dallas that attracts major employers, and Pasco County, which is a good 40-minute drive from Tampa. Irving gave Gonzalez a total compensation package of $450,000 — typical for that area of Texas, Schrader noted — while Gallagher earns $180,000 as Pasco's administrator.

Schrader also noted that Irving is breaking ground on a new library while Pasco is struggling to fund the ones it has.

"I sense that he's going to be coming to this board," Schrader said. "(He'll say) 'You want me to get this accomplished? I'm going to need financial incentives.' "

No problem, replied Starkey. As part of the Penny for Pasco sales tax that voters agreed to renew last fall, an estimated $45 million will be earmarked for economic development incentives over the next decade.

Starkey argued that a man like Gonzalez could do much to transform the perception of Pasco. Her grown son in New York hears of Pasco's reputation as not-so-friendly place to do business, she said.

"Having a new person at the top will send a message," she said. "We do have an image problem that we need to fix … I'm looking to be a model of efficiency and excellence in government."

"And we haven't done that?" asked Schrader.

"No," Starkey said.

Ultimately the commissioners coalesced around Gonzalez and instructed Schrader, the board chairman, to begin negotiations. The final contract would come back to the board for review and approval.

Gonzalez's contract in Irving ended this month, though officials there would allow him to stay through October if he wished.

Pasco commissioners tap Texas official for county administrator 05/28/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 7:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. The #BrooklynCow delighted Twitter for one glorious afternoon

    Blogs

    In the long tradition of social media delighting in news reports of a non-native animal running loose in an urban setting, Twitter, for a few blissful hours this afternoon, turned its collective attention to #BrooklynCow, a bull that escaped a slaughterhouse and began roaming free near New York's Prospect …

    A bull was on the loose in Brooklyn for a little while on Tuesday afternoon.
  2. Pinellas, Hillsborough to share notes on

    Blogs

    What is this, a crossover episode?

    Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins did make an appearance at the Pinellas County School Board workshop Tuesday in a first public move to establish an official partnerships between the two districts.

    Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins (center) and Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego discuss a new partnership between the two districts at a Pinellas County School Board workshop Tuesday in Largo.
  3. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  4. Marine colonel on temporary duty at CentCom arrested in Polk prostitution sting

    Macdill

    A Marine colonel on temporary duty at U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base was among nearly 300 people arrested in a Polk County Sheriff's Office prostitution and human trafficking sting.

    Marine Col. Kevin Scott, 51, was arrested in a Polk County prostitution sting on Oct. 14. Scott, on temporary duty at U.S. Central Command, was charged with a misdemeanor county of soliciting a prostitute. He was released on $500 bond. Photo courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
  5. Key senators reach bipartisan health-care subsidy deal, and Trump expresses support

    WASHINGTON - A pair of leading Republican and Democratic senators reached an agreement Tuesday to fund key federal health-care subsidies that President Donald Trump ended last week - and the president expressed support for the plan.

    President Donald Trump sits for a radio interview in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) DCSW104