Bonnie Dyga made some huge gains during her 18-month stint as Hernando County administrator. She streamlined management of the staff, she raised employees' pay and created new positions while authoring budgets that cut the property tax rate. She also is responsible more than any single commissioner for finding a way to fund residential road repairs.
But Dyga couldn't gain the trust of Commissioners Pat Novy and Bobbi Mills. In the end, that insurmountable obstacle made it impossible for Dyga to do the job for which she was hired. The frustration resulted in Dyga tendering her resignation Wednesday, shocking a community that has appreciated her professionalism and integrity, and admired her hard work and determination.
The timing of Dyga's departure could not be much worse, and the ramifications of her abbreviated tenure likely will be felt for years to come.
Although Dyga will stay long enough to guide the budget for the coming fiscal year, her Oct. 10 departure will leave the commissioners without a permanent leader for at least a few months while the commission searches for a replacement. Even if that hire is made before the end of this century, it could be months more before the new administrator will be ready to form any meaningful response to the challenges facing our county.
And those challenges are many. The completion of the first phase of the Suncoast Parkway in 2001 is expected to prompt residential and commercial growth not seen in the county since the unprecedented boom of the late 1980s. The county is still struggling with upgrading its infrastructure, including roads, water and emergency services, in preparation for that growth. Dyga's exit will put the county further behind schedule than it already is.
Just finding a qualified administrator, much less one with Dyga's talent and dedication, also will be a challenge for the commission. The ouster of former Administrator Chuck Hetrick in 1997, followed so soon by Dyga's resignation, sends an unmistakeable message to job applicants that Hernando County is hostile territory for professional administrators. If you thought the commission already had a bad reputation for being politically unstable, just wait until word spreads about Dyga calling it quits.
What experienced and reasonable administrator (at least one who is not desperate for a job) would come to a county where some commissioners cannot grasp even the simplest concepts of the job they were elected to do? If Dyga couldn't make Mills and Novy understand that their job is to set policy and let the administrator implement that policy, what are the odds someone else can?
What sane person would seek to spend time answering nasty memos from commissioners who secretly usurp your authority and disloyal staff members who betray your trust? And who wants to waste time dispelling outlandish conspiracy theories and correcting the misinformation spread by a small group of malcontents misrepresenting themselves as supporters of good government?
But as accurate as it is to blame Novy, Mills or the Good Government League for pushing Dyga toward the door, there is plenty of blame to go around. It starts with those influential members of the community who silently watched as Dyga struggled to get her ideas across to a board that lacks leadership and focus, and it ends with voters who misplaced their trust in candidates who obviously are not qualified for the job.
When Dyga was hired, the commissioners assured their constituents they had hired a person who was determined, enthusiastic and an accomplished communicator who was independent and bold enough to speak her mind. Dyga was the person needed to lead us into the next century, they said.
But they didn't mean it. What they really wanted was a paper-pusher who would look the other way, as Hetrick did, and allow them to grandstand while shielding their special interests and political backsides.
Hernando County is losing one of its best and brightest. We wish Dyga well in her new job as the assistant city manager in Port St. Lucie. The pay will be a little less, but there will be a dramatic improvement in the working conditions.