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County administrator has full plate in '05

Published Aug. 24, 2005

Last spring, then-County Administrator Dick Radacky was poised to retire, and the question of who would replace him was open.

The administrator has many duties. He or she must oversee county employees and be their confidante. The administrator is also servant to the County Commission, yet is expected to give the board advice.

With a successor to Radacky not named, a degree of uncertainty reigned in county government. Then the commission selected Gary Adams, who had served as village administrator in Rantoul, Ill., and a sense of momentum was restored.

"I found an organization that has a tremendous amount of resources and talent," Adams said in a recent interview. "Everybody was just waiting for the board to make a decision and provide some guidance, leadership and direction."

By all accounts, as Adams approaches six months as administrator, he has delivered.

"He is one of the finest men I have ever worked for," said county Parks and Recreation Department director Pat Fagan. "He listens to you, and he stands by you."

County Commission Chairwoman Nancy Robinson echoed Fagan's praise. Robinson said Adams is a skillful manager, intelligent and mindful of others' needs, including those of the public.

Then there is the matter of his work ethic, which many describe as awesome.

"He is just a unique individual," Robinson said. "I am very pleased to have him."

The Times asked Adams to discuss some of the issues and projects he hoped to make progress on in 2005. Some continue efforts already under way, Adams said, while others will get his full attention this year.

When Adams first came to Hernando, he said, he was struck by the disdain some community members seemed to have for county government. Officials and their decisions were too quickly attacked and ridiculed, he said.

Adams decided that part of the problem involved the county doing a poor job of explaining its behavior, and he is committed to getting more information to residents. In the past few months, he has appeared a number of times on Channel 19, Hernando's public information station on Bright House Networks, to get his message out to viewers.

Also troubling to Adams when he arrived was word that the county was not returning residents' calls. He has committed to returning every call he gets, which is consistent with his belief that as administrator, he must be responsive and open with the public.

"People want to see me," he said. "Who is that administrator? Is he a real person?"

Another area of focus will be on capital projects. The old Department of Public Works site on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Brooksville is an eyesore that must be dealt with, he said, as is the problem of dwindling county office space.

One critical job, he said, will be to determine how the Brooksville Regional Hospital building, which will be turned over to the county in 2006, can be best utilized to address the space crunch.

Adams is also committed to improving drainage in the eastern portion of the county, which was hit hard last year by flooding. The issue has not been taken seriously enough, Adams said, while acknowledging the problem is complex and fixes difficult.

One critical step in the right direction, he said, is to ensure that new developments have adequate drainage so nothing makes the problem worse.

"We are going to have to start dealing with that," Adams said. "We are going to have to step up to the plate."

When it comes to the county budget and department management, Adams wants to introduce performance measures in 2005: in essence, performance-based budgeting calls for departments to set service benchmarks they want to reach. Spending and performance are then gauged in relation to those benchmarks.

It's a way to measure what you are doing, Adams said, and with measurement comes efficiency.

Finally, Adams said communication among the county, School Board and the city of Brooksville must be improved. The staffs of each government should be meeting regularly to discuss issues of common interest, he said, even before political leaders meet to decide on a course of action.

One example, he said, is the need to integrate the management of residential development with the construction of schools and parks.

"It's in the taxpayers' interest that all the government entities work together," Adams said. "And I think that the public expects that."

Adams is known as the first one in the office each morning and the last out, and he has set himself a mountain of tasks this year. Asked when he planned to take a vacation, Adams said not any time soon, perhaps this summer.

"I really love what I do," he said. "And I think there is tremendous potential here."

Will Van Sant can be reached at (352) 754-6127 or