Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas halts nationwide search, makes its interim administrator permanent

Mark Woodard joined the county in 1988. He was Bob LaSala’s chief of staff, then his fill-in.

Mark Woodard joined the county in 1988. He was Bob LaSala’s chief of staff, then his fill-in.

CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County Commission decided Tuesday that its best candidate for chief executive is already sitting on the dais.

After roundly praising interim county administrator Mark Woodard's performance since taking over in April for his fired predecessor, Bob LaSala, the seven-member board voted unanimously Tuesday to halt a nationwide search and tap Woodard for the job.

Commissioners agreed that none of the other 45 applicants measured up to Woodard's institutional knowledge and his now-proven ability to tackle controversial issues.

"There's a value to that," Commissioner Susan Latvala said. "How do you weigh that against somebody who's new and may have all the experience and education we're looking for, but they don't have those skills and the background knowledge about Pinellas County?"

Woodard, 56, got choked up as he thanked commissioners.

"We're going to work every day to do things to serve the public," he said. "That's the way it should be and that's the way this board wants it to be."

None of the other hopefuls had experience running a government the size of Pinellas County's. And none had Florida government experience as deep as Wood­ard, who joined the county in 1988 as a budget analyst and served as LaSala's chief of staff.

The board's publicly expressed enthusiasm for Woodard in recent weeks likely scared away some potential candidates. At a July workshop, 10 days before the application deadline, Lat­vala asked fellow commissioners if it would be "disingenuous" to go forward, given how pleased they were with Woodard. Other board members shared her sentiment but decided to continue the search and re-evaluate it after the application period ended.

Those comments hurt the recruitment process, said Commissioners Norm Roche and Charlie Justice.

"The processes protect the organization and the structure of this government, and that is more important than any individual in this room," Justice said, even as he later praised Woodard.

Woodard impressed commissioners with a transparent budget process this year. They also liked his handling of the effort to reach a deal with the 18 cities over emergency medical services, and the progress he has made to heal relationships with health and human services partner providers that fractured under LaSala's leadership.

"He knows where the mistakes have been made, he knows not to make those same mistakes, and he knows how to fill those cracks," Commissioner John Morroni said.

They also praised Woodard's responsiveness to their questions and noted the support he has among county employees.

"I can't tell you how many things he's followed up on that had just been languishing," Commissioner Janet Long said. "No matter what the issue is, he is on the money and he doesn't make you feel as though you don't know what you're talking about or it's none of your business."

Woodard told the board he does not intend to seek a contract with any of the standard perquisites, such as a car allowance and severance package. In an interview after the meeting, Woodard said that sends a message of solidarity to employees and conveys "the importance of public service."

He could seek a salary bump, though. His pay increased by $20,000, to $199,513, when he took the interim post. LaSala was paid about $225,000.

Woodard said his priorities include striking deals with the other 17 fire departments that provide EMS service, mending relationships with community partners, and bolstering departments and services slashed or merged during the recession.

"Did it save money, did it provide for additional efficiencies, or did it allow us to enhance customer service? If we can't answer 'yes' to at least one of those questions, then we need to go in and re-evaluate that change," he said.

Pinellas halts nationwide search, makes its interim administrator permanent 08/05/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 11:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated


    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person



    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears


    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings