Flagler County Commissioners today narrowed a list of two dozen applicants for interim county administrator to four, whom commissioners will interview on Feb. 18.
The four candidates are Glenn Irby, formerly the Apopka city manager, Ted Lakey, the former Jackson County administrator, Jerry Cameron, a consultant and formerly an assistant St. Johns County administrator for a decade, and Michael Esposito, a special projects coordinator in Flagler County government and one of two internal applicants.
Four commissioners shortlisted Irby and Lakey, three shortlisted Cameron and Esposito. Commissioners decided to call in those who got three or four votes only. (See the full list of applicants and their resumes, and commissioners’ choices, below.)
Commissioners met in special session early this afternoon at the county’s Emergency Operations Center (the venue is not necessarily reflective of the criticality of their meeting: it’s where they almost always meet in workshop, though today there was a sense of urgency) and drew up their shortlist in 15 minutes. The county administration took in applicants through the end of last month. The administration prepared binders of the applicants for each commissioner.
The commissioners studied the applications over the weekend (though Commissioner Charlie Ericksen had to confirm that they were picking an interim candidate only), and got to today’s meeting ready to offer up their choices. There was no discussion about the individual choices, whom commissioners referred to by numbers, not by name, until County Attorney Al Hadeed recommended reading the names into the record.
The commission wants to hire an interim administrator very soon because its former deputy administrator, Sally Sherman, put in her last day last week, announcing her resignation the same day that former administrator Craig Coffey tendered his–the passive-aggressive equivalent of a protest by Coffey’s protege since their days in DeSoto County. Sherman’s decision left the county scrambling for a fill-in and belied previous claims that she only had the county’s best interest at heart.
The result is the commission’s bifurcated urgency to search for both an interim administrator and a permanent administrator.
Sherman’s last act was to prepare a timeline for the commission’s interim hire. Over the next few days, the administration will run background checks on the shortlisted candidates and invite them to interview on Feb. 18.
That morning, commissioners will interview each candidate on a one-on-one basis. The commissioners today did not discuss whether those one-on-one meetings would be open to the public or not. In the past, that’s been left up to elected officials’ discretion: when she was a county commissioner, Milissa Holland insisted on keeping her door open, and in similar round-robin situations (as when the county hired its economic development director eight years ago), the doors to commissioners’ interview rooms were left open for anyone to drop in, fly-on-the-wall style, and observe, as long as no one interfered between the commissioner and the candidate. Holland, now the Palm Coast mayor, is adopting the same approach in her coming interviews with candidates for Palm Coast manager, though at least one of her colleagues there is preferring to hold the interviews with a closed door, to test the candidates’ ability to deal with him.
Interviewed individually about their approach, four of the five county commissioners said they would be fine with an open door, as long as it was legal (it is), and as long as it does not step on other commissioners’ desire to do it differently. The exception was Commissioner Greg Hansen,. Though he was not closed to the idea. “My initial gut reaction would be no, I wouldn’t want that, but I’ll have to think about it,” he said of an open door. Like other commissioners, he said he’d want to check with Hadeed.
“I never have any problem with people seeing me, but I’m not going to agree to anything the other people don’t agree with,” Commissioner Dave Sullivan said.
Commissioner Joe Mullins was taking the Holland approach. Commission Chairman Don O’Brien said he preferred the open approach but would check on protocol. “I certainly would opt on the side of having anyone who’d want to sit in on mine, I’d be willing to do that,” O’Brien said. Eriksen said likewise, as long as whoever sat in was not disruptive.
The one-on-one interviews would stretch from 9 a.m. to noon. Sherman’s plan had commissioners meet for lunch, together, with the four candidates and the county’s directors. O’Brien said he wasn’t sure about that approach, saying he’d be more comfortable with a mixer, chamber of commerce style, for the candidates who’ll be short-listed for the permanent position, but not so much for those applying for the interim spot. Palm Coast council members had been presented with a similar option–a breakfast with short-listed candidates and their directors, all together. But they killed the idea on advice of their attorney because of open-meeting implications.
The county’s four candidates would then each appear before the full commission, in open session, for another round of interviews, the afternoon of the 18th. Commissioners are expected to possibly choose an interim later that day.
Commissioners did not discuss whether the questions they would ask would be prepared ahead of time or whether they would all be the same to each candidate, as is sometimes the case on other government panels. The dearth of questions–or discussion–reflects the improvisational nature of an interim search that’s been more improvisational than systematic or clear-eyed had commissioners had a designated point person in the administration to do the job. As it was, it was relying on its purchasing director to shepherd it through the thornier aspects of the search, its human resources director having been in the job only a matter of days: the county’s administrative bench revealed itself to be thinner than Coffey had made it seem, and the voids at the top are much harder to hide or ignore.
Commissioners today also discussed the process for a permanent administrator. They leaned toward hiring an outside head-hunting firm, much as Palm Coast did for its ongoing search. None of the commissioners wanted to feel rushed for the permanent choice. They were willing to pay the cost of a broader search, which would range between $25,000 to $35,000, with the county issuing its own request for proposals (for a search firm), and doing that without undue time pressures.
The meeting drew no comments from the very few people, county staffers aside, who attended the meeting. It was over in half an hour.
Flagler County Applicants for Interim Administrator: Commissioners' Shortlists
|Applicants||Current or last job||Location||Ericksen||Hansen||Sullivan||Mullins||O'Brien||Total|
|Holly Albanese||Flagler County Library Director||Palm Coast|
|Doug Bentley||6th Congressional District Coordinator||Palm Coast|
|John Bettencourt [withdrew]||Self-employed consultant||Palm Coast|
|Todd Bodem||Sand City, Calif., administrator (pop. 350)||Monterey, Calif.|
|Lyndon Bonner||County Administrator, Jackson County, for three weeks in March 2018||Flagler Beach|
|Michael Brillhart||Planning consultant||Vero Beach, Fla.|
|Jerry Cameron||Managing partner, Community Consulting and Management||St. Augustine, Fla.|
|Jon Cameron||Regional Dirtector, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, to 2017||Livingston, Texas|
|Pamela Catalone||Attorney, Beacon Center (Domestic Abuse Council)||Palm Coast|
|Mary Anne Connors||Deputy Volusia County Manager, to Feb. 2016||Ormond Beach|
|Steve Davis||County Administrator, Effingham County, Ga. (pop. 52,000)||Pooler, Ga.|
|Steve Davis||General Manager of a 1,096-unit condo association||Cape Coral, Fla.|
|Michael Esposito||Special Projects Coordinator, Flagler County government||Palm Coast|
|Shawn Fletcher||Assistant County Administrator, Ford County, Kansas (pop. 34,000)||Dodge City, Kansas|
|Brian Hall||Operations Director, R.E.B.T Construction||Union, Ky.|
|Ernest Hoch||COO, Jarrell Properties, Inc. (real estate development)||Fredericksburg, Va.|
|Glenn Irby||Apopka City Administrator (to July 2018) (pop. 52,000)||Umatilla, Fla.|
|Julian Jackson||City Manager, Peachtree Corners, Ga. (pop. 43,000), to Nov. 2016||Fernandina Beach, Fla.|
|Jill Benninghoven Keimach||City Manager, Alamida, Calif. (pop. 79,000), to May 2018||Truckee, Calif.|
|Steven Lachnicht||Interim Planning Director, Palatka||Gainesville, Fla.|
|Ted Lakey||Taylor County Administrator (pop. 23,000) (to Nov. 2018)||Port Saint Joe, Fla.|
|Johnny Mobley II||Social Media Management||Pembroke Pines, Fla.|
|Hector Rivera||Adjunct faculty member in sociology, at Indian River State College||Palm City, Fla.|
|Justin Stankiewicz||Nassau County Budget Officer, to 2018||Ponte Vedra, Fla.|
|Stefen Wynn||Town Manager, Albion, Ind. (pop. 2,300)||Albion, Ind.|