Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard retired Friday, leaving the county in good shape by multiple measures. Residents report a high level of satisfaction with local services, the county has strong relationships with surrounding cities and the Penny for Pinellas, which passed last year with 83 percent voter support, is in place to continue funding quality-of-life projects.
Woodard started with the county 30 years ago in the budget office and rose through the ranks to become the top administrator. He took over five years ago, during a time of deep turmoil. He replaced his former boss, Bob LaSala, who was forced out after alienating county commissioners with his abrasive style and ineffectiveness at resolving disputes. Woodard quickly took a different, collaborative approach. He helped resolve a simmering dispute with St. Petersburg over funding for emergency medical services, cut $1.2 million from the budget by canceling frivolous consultant contracts and restructured the county's veterans services after learning of widespread complaints. During his five years at the helm, he focused on and found success by building partnerships — with the commissioners and with other local governments.
Incoming administrator Barry Burton starts Monday and already has some work to do to build trust after a rocky negotiation phase over his salary. Burton, who is coming from a county outside Chicago, made unreasonable demands and realized it. He should start work ready to demonstrate his commitment to getting to know Pinellas and serving its residents.
Burton has the advantage of stepping into a well-run, healthy operation, thanks to the groundwork laid by his predecessor. He should stay the course.