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Broward has eyes on chief county lawyer

County Attorney Garth Coller, who has held his post since 2000, may be headed to South Florida.

Coller, 50, is among seven finalists to become Broward County's top lawyer, a job that could pay him double the $111,405 yearly salary he makes in Hernando.

Coller said last fall he was contacted by a recruiter who had been hired by Broward County to find a replacement for Ed Dion. Dion, Broward's lead attorney, resigned in September, according to a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

A report that ran in the paper Saturday said Broward officials are to hold interviews with the seven finalists next month and make a selection soon after.

Coller was hopeful but realistic in a Monday interview with the Times.

"I know the competition," he said, "and they are very good. The fact that I made it this far, I am somewhat amazed."

Coller said he had not actively sought a job elsewhere and was happy in Hernando. But after the recruiter contacted him, he began to give the matter some thought, he said.

In Broward, which is much wealthier and more urban than Hernando, Coller said he would have more responsibility and a much larger stable of lawyers. It's a higher profile position in an area of the state where he once lived and the job also pays much better, he said.

But Coller, who was recently married and has a 6-month-old son, Travis, said those reasons are not what really sparked his interest, but the opportunity to be near his family.

His sister, brother, nieces, nephews and 85-year-old father all live in or near Boca Raton.

Coller once served as counsel to two Boca Raton companies and was a land use and assistant county attorney in Monroe County.

In Hernando, he is perhaps best known for orchestrating the October 2003 county purchase of the Florida Water Services utility in Spring Hill.

County Commission Chairman Robert Schenck said Coller told him that he was a finalist for the job a few days ago. Schenck, who praised Coller's work for Hernando, said he did not fault the lawyer.

"He has got to do what he thinks is in the best interest of him and his family," Schenck said. "And Broward is a great opportunity."

Will Van Sant can be reached at 754-6127 or vansantsptimes.com.

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