Pasco starting search for new county administrator

County Administrator John Gallagher, 65, of New Port Richey, center, shares a laugh with county Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, left, and Pasco County Circuit Judge William Webb.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

County Administrator John Gallagher, 65, of New Port Richey, center, shares a laugh with county Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, left, and Pasco County Circuit Judge William Webb.

NEW PORT RICHEY — County commissioners began hunting this week for a new county administrator after formally acknowledging that John Gallagher will retire in April.

They're moving very deliberately. After all, commissioners and staffers aren't exactly familiar with the process.

"We haven't done this in 30 years," said personnel director Barbara DeSimone. "It was the early '80s when we last recruited a county administrator, so I'm looking for some guidance."

Gallagher added: "You're going through the process that I went through 30 years ago of selecting a team to actually run the county."

There are a few options for finding Gallagher's successor. The county could hire a formal recruiter to advertise the position, review resumes and conduct background checks. That could cost between $22,000 and $42,000.

The county could also rely on a three-member panel of retired administrators from across Florida known as "Range Riders." They would review applicants and provide commissioners with a short list based on their goals. That service is free.

Gallagher said he expects Pasco will receive up to 150 applications. That list would initially be cut to 10 or 20, and commissioners would select a handful of candidates to interview. The applications, as well as deliberations about the selection, would be open to the public.

"Any meeting you have to discuss the future county administrator is going to have to be in the sunshine," chief assistant county attorney David Goldstein told commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday.

Several commissioners said they are leaning toward the Range Rider program to save money and give themselves greater control over the process.

"I do not want to hire a headhunter," said Commissioner Henry Wilson.

But Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she wants to consider candidates from areas, including Charlotte and Austin, with vibrant economies.

"What I didn't like about the Range Riders is they're all from Florida and I wanted a bigger perspective," she said. She is concerned that approach would limit potential applicants, while a recruiter could help lure a top candidate.

"I don't want to wait to see who wants to come here," she said. "I want us to define what we want and go out and find that person."

Commission Chairman Ted Schrader suggested that the commission mull the options until their next meeting.

"Mr. Gallagher's been here for 30 years and we've been talking about this for five or 10 minutes," he said. "Let's don't make a hasty decision today."

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

Pasco starting search for new county administrator 12/05/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 6:18pm]

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