NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County commissioners will hire a professional headhunter to help replace longtime County Administrator John Gallagher.
One reason is because a top candidate is someone they know very well: Michele Baker, Gallagher's chief assistant and a veteran of the county's staff.
A recruiter allows commissioners to "sort of step back a little bit," commission Chairman Ted Schrader said earlier this week. "It just clearly distances that (process) because Ms. Baker is going to be applying."
Besides inoculating commissioners from favoritism accusations, the move could also bring in new blood by using a firm with a record of finding well-qualified candidates.
Gallagher, who has held the post for 30 years, retires April 30. That means commissioners are on a tight deadline.
"Time is certainly of the essence," said purchasing director Scott Stromer, who said he could open the bidding process for prospective firms in the coming days.
Commissioners would likely pick a recruiting firm by January, with the goal of reviewing candidate profiles for semifinalists or finalists by early March. Schrader said Sarasota County recently went through a similar process and spent between $15,000 and $20,000.
The search also means commissioners must assess what they want in a new leader.
Gallagher said there are generally two types of county administrators: Those who are more community oriented and "a lot more vocal than I am publicly," or people "like me, who stick to the nuts and bolts of running the administration."
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she is interested in somebody with experience in public-private partnerships who has worked in a high-growth area.
The person might have private sector experience and would at least have a "pro-business" perspective.
Commissioner Henry Wilson hopes to land someone who has managed the kind of intense growth projected for Pasco over the next few decades.
"It needs to be a national search," he said. "We need somebody who's gone from 500,000 people to 1 million people in their government."
The person would need experience with economic development and redeveloping aging areas, said Commissioner Jack Mariano.
"Mr. Gallagher works on the nuts and bolts, but he can also sit down at the table and talk with (politicians and business leaders)," he said.
Commissioner Pat Mulieri said she wants an administrator with a bottom-up management style and someone who can "think outside the box."
"It's not your grandmother and grandfather's Pasco," she said.
Lee Logan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6236.