Sunday, November 19, 2017
News Roundup

Restructuring plan unveiled

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BROOKSVILLE — Eight months into his tenure as Hernando County administrator, Len Sossamon is ready to put his stamp on the organization of his top management staff.

On Tuesday, he will ask county commissioners to approve a new organizational chart and job descriptions for four assistant county administrators, each of whom will oversee a group of related services.

He will also seek permission to advertise internally because he plans to fill the positions with existing managers. They will receive little or no increase to their salaries, he said.

Sossamon has been working on the reorganization and talking to staff and commissioners for months. He said the proposal he will pitch to the commission Tuesday is a plan that will streamline supervision and improve efficiency.

"We needed to figure out a better way for operational purposes,'' said Sossamon, adding that a similar structure worked well for him when he was city manager in Concord, N.C.

The plan would replace the "leadership team'' of a half dozen or more directors put into place under previous administrator David Hamilton. In a shift from Hamilton's plan, the county's other elected constitutional officers would not be members of Sossamon's proposed leadership group. But Sossamon said he intends to invite them to actively communicate with him and his four assistants.

Under the proposal, the assistant county administrator of budget and community services would oversee the office of budget management, library services, health and human services, veterans services and extension services.

The assistant county administrator of planning and development would oversee planning, mass transit, building, zoning, code enforcement, permitting, business development, airport operations and tourist development.

The assistant county administrator of general services would oversee internal county functions such as human resources, risk management, workers compensation, technology services, communications, purchasing and contracts, vehicle maintenance, facilities maintenance and parks and recreation.

The fourth new position, assistant county administrator of operations, would be responsible for public works, the county engineer, public safety, fire/rescue, animal services, utilities, water and sewer services and solid waste.

The salary range for each of the assistant administrators would be from $79,914 to $128,824.

Sossamon said he has had time to see his employees in action during the literal and figurative storms the county has weathered in the past few months, and he is confident he has people in-house who can handle taking on the additional responsibilities the new positions would require.

He also noted that, under the plan, he would have about the same number of direct subordinates reporting to him as the assistants would have reporting to them.

"I think his reorganizational plan is great,'' said County Commissioner Nick Nicholson. "We're going to finally have people overseeing different departments that they actually know something about.''

Nicholson said Sossamon has done the research and development of the plan in the proper way because he has been talking to his staff and to commissioners about versions of the plan for the entire time he has been formulating it.

He also said he liked that Sossamon will have those who move into the new jobs continue to do their old jobs, so there will be no cost to replace them.

The plan also takes some pressure off the administrator by allowing assistant administrators to put out the small fires, leaving Sossamon to take on the larger county tasks. Maybe, Nicholson said, that will mean that Hernando County will finally stop the problem of high turnover in administrators.

Commissioner Diane Rowden agreed.

"We hire these leaders, and we've got to let them lead,'' she said. "Maybe if we let the administrator do their job, they'd stay.''

Rowden noted that allowing the assistant administrators to run the day-to-day operations "frees (the administrator) up to work on our strategic plan, (to) think about five years and 10 years from now.''

She said she would support the proposal because "a sign of a good leader is someone who can delegate. … He's had enough time to assess his leaders, and he knows who will be in a good position to do what they need to do.''

Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said Sossamon's plan is still a work in progress, a draft for commissioners to discuss on Tuesday.

"It would streamline his leadership team and get people more focused,'' he said.

Dukes also noted that one thing was critical in his mind.

"We can't have cost increases, and he's assured me that it's not going to cost us anything,'' he said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

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