The second anniversary in marriage revolves around cotton as the traditional gift to give. In Hernando County government, it might as well be gold. County Administrator David Hamilton just surpassed his second year on the job, making him Hernando's longest tenured administrator in this century.
Before Hamilton's arrival, Hernando County government went through 10 administrators, including interims, in 10 years. That lack of continuity paved the way for dawdling public works projects, unprofessional and unethical behavior by some workers and continued employment for others despite critical evaluations.
The culture of inaction, excuse-making and a self-serving bureaucracy is no longer the status quo and for that the commission must tip its hat to Hamilton. In fact, commissioners did just that this week in a public evaluation of the administrator that included such descriptions as tenacious and resilient.
Commissioners were in near agreement in evaluating Hamilton with Commission Chairman John Druzbick noting a tight grouping in 14 of the 15 areas ranked. Faults were few, though Druzbick noted a general consensus on the board that Hamilton "excels better at communicating with the public than with the governing body.''
Communication, however, takes both a transmitter and a receiver and some commission actions suggest the board simply doesn't listen. Case in point is the 3-2 approval of an application to amend the comprehensive plan allowing the Quarry Preserve development despite staff concerns about its location far from existing services. Likewise, there is an inability to grasp the enormity of looming budget decisions on the county's long-range infrastructure as attested to by the quick dismissal of even debating a gasoline tax increase.
Much work remains ahead, including assembling a 2011-12 budget that already carries a $4.4 million deficit projection; deciding on a location and building schedule for a new county courthouse; completing the stalled Hernando Beach channel dredging; redeveloping South Brooksville, and bolstering industrial recruiting to diversify the property tax base and reduce the reliance on residential construction as the backbone of the local economy.
It is a lengthy and complicated to-do list, but it should be eased by having someone of Hamilton's high caliber at the helm to help guide the process.