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The "interim' may vanish

In two years, three months and four days, Dick Radacky will become what he calls a "has-been" in Hernando County government.

His departure is fixed for June 30, 2004, as part of the state Deferred Retirement Option Program, and Radacky long has been counting the days to anyone who will listen.

Before he goes, though, county commissioners have plans for the retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel. In the name of stability and continuity, they said, they're likely to offer Radacky the full-time county administrator's job today, just a week after handing him the post on an interim basis.

"I'm looking into how viable it would be to do that," Commissioner Betty Whitehouse said of an offer to Radacky, who joined the county in late 1985 as utilities director. "I think he has the respect of a lot of people in the community. He certainly has been a good employee here."

Whitehouse said she needed to check Radacky's performance evaluations and resume and review the administrator job description before reaching a final decision. The description requires a master's or bachelor's degree in public or business administration or related fields, plus management experience.

Radacky earned a bachelor's degree in major animal sciences from the University of Florida in 1968.

"Certainly, we'll have to have some discussion there if that's the direction we go in," Whitehouse said.

Of all current employees, Radacky has the most knowledge about the myriad programs and initiatives the county has in play, Commissioner Chris Kingsley said.

"He could do a good job. I think that's a good idea," Kingsley said.

When polled by the St. Petersburg Times on Monday, no other current department directors said they were interested in the administrator job.

Chairwoman Nancy Robinson said Radacky did the work well as interim administrator in late 1999 and early 2000, and that he probably would succeed in the future. Still, Robinson said, she would need to hear Radacky say he wants the job before committing to him.

She also suggested Radacky might prefer a six-month trial to see how he and the board work together with him at the top.

That baby step toward a permanent replacement for Paul McIntosh suited Commissioner Diane Rowden.

"I just think we should take our time and see what we want to do," Rowden said, adding her support for Radacky as the most logical choice to keep the county moving.

Radacky, who became deputy administrator in 1998, said he is considering his options.

"I certainly wouldn't take it on a 3-2 (vote) or anything like that," he said. "It's got to be a two-way street, and the board has got to come to me."

Radacky rejected the notion that his pending retirement would hinder his effectiveness.

"Bonnie (Dyga) was here no longer than two years. Paul was here two years," he said."Maybe that period of time is too long. Who knows? What I'm after is what's best for the county. The board members are the ones that put that in motion."

He agreed that the county needs stability and pledged to provide that type of leadership whether as interim or permanent administrator. Radacky listed several issues that surfaced under McIntosh that need immediate attention.

Those include several contentious matters with the city of Brooksville, such as the settlement of a utilities service area for the county and city. Other items that demand continued attention include the possible purchase of Florida Water Services in Spring Hill, a study of the county water supply and creation of a hazardous materials response team, he said.

The administration also must determine what to do with its business development and emergency management departments. Neither has a permanent full-time manager.

If Radacky moves into the administrator's seat, commissioners said, they might look at the deputy administrator position as one in which to groom future administrators.

"We've got some really good people," Rowden said. "We've got to give them some opportunity."

Commissioners do not have to choose the deputy, Robinson added, even though they hire the administrator. Given enough time working with whomever the administrator hires, she said, the board should have ample experience to determine whether that person would be a good fit.

Radacky said he has not given any thought to who might replace him, although he has begun looking for some help while he serves as interim administrator. He said he expected to tap assistant utilities director Stephanie Burkhardt and code enforcement director Frank McDowell III as needed.

If the deputy administrator job becomes vacant, he said, it would be properly advertised and opened to all applicants.

_ Jeffrey S. Solochek covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to solocheksptimes.com.

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