Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

John Romano: Pinellas administrator LaSala's legacy? Good hire, good fire

Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala addresses the media after being terminated by a unanimous vote by the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners at the beginning of Tuesday’s regular public meeting in Clearwater.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala addresses the media after being terminated by a unanimous vote by the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners at the beginning of Tuesday’s regular public meeting in Clearwater.

Do not be misled by the abruptness of Bob LaSala's firing this week.

Do not read too much into the unanimous vote of Pinellas commissioners to terminate their county administrator, and do not infer anything from the lack of debate.

If not inevitable, this ending was entirely predictable.

For it is probably fair to say that LaSala was clearly the wrong option in 2014 for some of the same reasons he was the perfect choice in 2009.

"When he first came to us, he was needed to put out fires and bring some organization and stability to the county and, oh by the way, steer us through a historic recession,'' said Commissioner Ken Welch. "And, for the most part, the average person in Pinellas did not see the impact of all the cuts that had to be made.

"Maybe you noticed the grass was growing a little higher at Fort De Soto Park or something like that, but he did an excellent job of running the county during that period. It's just that some folks have different skill sets. Bob was good with change management, with crisis management. Today we need someone with other skills.''

As bureaucrats go, LaSala was more fearsome than most. He was blunt. Occasionally gruff. Almost always uncompromising. And those were his strong points.

He was a guy who got things done, and so it was inevitable he would eventually rub elected officials the wrong way. At one point in his tenure, Welch asked LaSala to go back and watch video of a commission meeting to see that his aggressive demeanor toward one commissioner bordered on disrespectful.

He was not the man you hired when you were looking for someone to be a caretaker. Subordination was never going to be his thing.

Think of it this way:

Would St. Petersburg still be having the same debates about the Pier and Rays stadium if LaSala had been running the city the past four years?

You might not like every LaSala decision, but you had to admit he was never afraid to pursue or implement his plans.

"Everything has its time and its season,'' said Commissioner Janet Long. "I've shared this with Bob so I don't mind saying it aloud. He led the county through an incredibly tumultuous time with a steady hand and firm leadership. We needed him.

"But now we need someone with a more collaborative style. A more cohesive type of person. Right now we need someone new.''

It may not be a perfect analogy, but this is similar to what you see in the sports world. When a team is underperforming, they often bring in a tough guy to be the coach or manager. A guy to kick butt and establish a specific direction.

And when the tough guy's welcome is worn out, they will turn to a laid-back leader. Someone who can calm the waters and ease the tension.

No one understands this better than LaSala. He butted heads with elected leaders in Boca Raton in the 1990s, he was lauded and later lambasted at two stops in California and he had a longer-than-expected run here in Pinellas.

Not to mention, between two terminations and two suggested resignations, he has now walked away with nearly $1.3 million in severance, benefits and vacation pay in the last 25 years or so.

Yes, in retrospect, his firing may have been a little overdue here. But his reign was not a failure.

John Romano: Pinellas administrator LaSala's legacy? Good hire, good fire 04/16/14 [Last modified: Thursday, April 17, 2014 6:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
[LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Times
 file photo]

  2. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.
  3. Suspect in Maryland office park shooting is apprehended

    Nation

    EDGEWOOD, Md. — A man with a lengthy criminal past who was fired from a job earlier this year for punching a colleague showed up for work at a countertop company on Wednesday and shot five of his co-workers has been arrested, authorities said. Three of them were killed and two critically wounded.

    Harford County, Md., Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler shows a picture of Radee Labeeb Prince, the suspect in the workplace shootings.
  4. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.
  5. The two Ricks tangle at what may be final debate

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — In what was likely the last mayoral forum before the Nov. 7 election, Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker started out small, discussing neighborhood issues like recycling and neighborhood funding. They ended tangling over familiar subjects: the future of the Tampa Bay Rays, sewage …

    Ex-Mayor Rick Baker, left, and Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, debated familiar topics. The Times’ Adam Smith moderated.