NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners narrowed the search for their next county administrator to five candidates Tuesday, but not without a curveball from Commissioner Jack Mariano.
What about Kevin Guthrie? Mariano asked the rest of the board after being briefed on 11 candidates recommended by an executive head hunter.
Guthrie 46, joined the county a little more a year ago as emergency management director and was promoted less than two months later to the newly created job of director of emergency services. There, Guthrie also oversees the county's emergency dispatch system and helped resolve a public dispute between Sheriff Chris Nocco and County Administrator Michele Baker over management of the 911 center.
Guthrie, however, did not apply to succeed Baker, who is leaving county government when her contract expires in July. Mariano's suggestion, with Guthrie sitting in the audience, drew momentary silence from the rest of the commission until Commissioner Kathryn Starkey spoke.
"It's a little late,'' Starkey said.
Fifty-four people applied to be the next county administrator by the Dec. 15 deadline. Mark J. Morien, vice president of GovHR USA, an executive recruiting firm retained by the county, spoke with 19 of the applicants and recommended 11 as worthy of job interviews.
On Tuesday, commissioners ignored Mariano's pitch and short-listed the group to five candidates:
• Daniel F. Biles, deputy county manager-infrastrucutre in Jefferson County, Ala. Based in Birmingham, the county has a population of 659,500. Biles recently received a "golden-handcuffs'' raise of 18 percent, bringing his annual salary to $207,500, in an attempt by Jefferson County to keep him, Morien said.
• Mark A. Cunningham, an assistant county administrator in Sarasota County since 2012, who has worked in planning and development for Polk County; the city of Denton, Texas; and in Charles, Frederick and Baltimore counties in Maryland.
Morien called Cunningham "a future star with unlimited potential.''
"You don't have to keep reading. I really like this one,'' Starkey said as Morien recited Cunningham's attributes.
• David M. Ross, county administrator in Rock Island County, Ill., which has a population of 147,258. Ross, a former longtime police officer, is the first county administrator in Rock Island County, which reorganized its government in 2015.
"I have confidence he can handle a position much larger than Rock Island,'' Morien said.
• Theodore L. Voorhees, a consultant and former city manager for the city of Fayetteville, N.C., which has a population of 210,000. He also served as deputy or assistant city manger in the cities of Durham and Wilmington, N.C.
Morien said Voorhees was instrumental in luring a minor league baseball team to Fayetteville. The Houston Astros announced last year they would move a Class A team to Fayetteville in 2019.
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• Dale M. Walker, county manager for Macon-Bibb County, Ga., which has a population of 160,000. The city of Macon and Bibb County merged their government operations in 2014. Commission Chairman Mike Moore said he was impressed with Walker's economic development successes.
The candidates are scheduled to travel to Pasco County in mid March for a tour, a meet-and-greet session with invited community members and formal interviews with commissioners.