Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas County Commission to talk Tuesday about selecting new executive

The Pinellas County Commission has yet to talk about what it wants in its next chief executive, but they've made one thing clear: Internal candidates are encouraged to apply.

The list of county employees who boast a resume solid enough to be considered, however, is relatively short.

Commissioners will discuss the job description and search process during their meeting Tuesday. In the meantime, here's a look at some of the in-house talent who could be contenders:

Mark Woodard interim county administrator

The obvious internal favorite is the man doing the job now.

Woodard, 55, is in his 26th year with the county. When ousted administrator Bob LaSala was hired, he was among the five finalists. Woodard has worked as an assistant county administrator for a dozen years and served as LaSala's chief of staff.

Commissioners praised Woodard's work as second-in-command when they tapped him last month to serve as interim administrator.

When asked if he plans to apply, he chose his words carefully: "If the board says, 'We're pleased with your performance, would you consider assuming the position on a permanent basis,' then yes, whatever I can do to help the county and the organization," he said. "That's where my commitment is."

Woodard lives in Tampa with his wife, former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, and said he wants to stay there.

That could be a problem if he wants the job. The county charter does not require its administrator to live in the county, but commissioners included a residency requirement in LaSala's contract. Woodard took himself out of the running in 2008 when commissioners expressed concerns about his residency.

Chairwoman Karen Seel, who was on the board at the time, noted that a significant circumstance has changed: Iorio is no longer the mayor, erasing the potential for conflicts of interest.

"I think there were concerns at the time about having that kind of leadership in one family," Seel said.

Bruce Moeller | director of Safety and Emergency Services

Moeller, 58, joined the county 20 months ago after serving as a city manager in Sunrise for five years. Prior to that, Moeller worked as a fire chief for 16 years.

"I wanted to get back to my roots in public safety and emergency services," he said.

Moeller is now embroiled in a heated debate over the county's proposal to cut funding for emergency medical services. Clearly, Woodard has confidence in him: Last week, the interim administrator made Moeller chief of staff.

Moeller said he hasn't ruled out applying for the top job.

"Depending on what the commission's needs and desires are, I'll certainly keep an open mind," he said.

Maureen Freaney | director of Animal Services

Freaney, 58, of Dunedin started with the county in 2006 as director of what was then called health and human services. She was promoted four years later to assistant county administrator. In that role, she oversaw Public Safety and Emergency Medical Services, Animal Services and Code Enforcement, among other departments.

A year ago, after LaSala announced a plan to cut two of the three existing assistant county administrator positions, Freaney stayed on as the director of Animal Services, which she had been running for several months on an interim basis.

Freaney said she's confident she could do the county administrator job and hasn't ruled out applying.

"I think one of my skill sets has been as a collaborator, but right now I do have a passion and want to get Animal Services where it needs to be," she said.

Bill Horne | Clearwater city manager

What about city managers in Pinellas? The answer depends on whether the County Commission will require county administration experience.

Observers say Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne, who hasn't held a leadership role on the county level, would do the job well. Horne, 64, said he's probably not interested but can't say for sure until he sees the job description.

"I think (commissioners) have to articulate rather thoroughly what kind of executive they will support as he or she takes on some very difficult tasks," Horne said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

 
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