Sixteen individuals have applied to be interim Flagler County administrator so far, including five from Palm Coast-Flagler County, two of them members of the current county administration.
The application period is open until the middle of next week (Jan. 29). The interim administrator will be a contract employee, serving until a permanent county administrator is selected. That replacement may or may not be the interim: it is not yet clear whether the interim will be invited to apply for the permanent position, though it’s likely. Many of the applicants for the interim job are applying on the assumption that they’ll be candidates for the permanent job.
Some of them–Doug Bentley, Steve Davis and Glenn Irby–were also applying for the Palm Coast city manager’s job, though all three have been eliminated, Bentley only for reason of residency (he would not move to Palm Coast).
The two internal applicants are Holly Albanese, the long-time library director–a longevity at odds with her status in the administration: she was never an insider–and Michael Esposito, a special projects director of more recent vintage who worked alongside Craig Coffey. Coffey’s 11-year tenure ended earlier this month when, under immense pressure from unions, constitutional officers and two county commissioners, he tendered his resignation.
Other local applicants include Bentley, a coordinator in the 6th Congressional District office of former congressman Ron DeSantis, now the governor, John Bettencourt, a self-employed consultant who’s worked only in the private sector, and Pamela Catalone, an attorney specializing in labor law and employee relations and family law, and says she’s “moving forward in my career in public service.”
Local candidates aside, five applicants from Florida also applied, though one of them, Johnny Mobley II, is not a serious applicant, at least not for that position, and appears to have mistaken the job opening for interim administrator for other jobs in the organization. Several applicants have town or county management experience, but none in a government approaching the size of Flagler County’s.
“I think you will be encouraged,” County Commission Chairman O’Brien told his colleagues today. “The qualification level is pretty darn strong, so we’ll see where that goes. I’m pleasantly surprised, or–I don’t know what the right term is, but we’re getting a good flow of qualified applicants.”
Only three commissioners showed up for a special meeting of the commission this afternoon at the county’s Emergency Operations Center–O’Brien, Dave Sullivan and Joe Mullins.
The meeting was originally billed as an update on the application process, but turned into more than that: Deputy County Administrator Sally Sherman, sitting in essentially as the interim until her resignation becomes effective in a week, placed two significant action items before the three commissioners, both with large import on the organization, and both the sort of decisions two of the commissioners would have rather be left for the next county administrator to decide.
The first was the breaking up of the position formerly held by Joe Mayer into two executive positions, essentially adding a top level administrative position to the county’s ranks. Mayer, who resigned, effective next week, at the same time that Coffey did, was both the human resources director and the community services director. Sherman said the two responsibilities should be split into two jobs, the way they were before the recession of 2007, and a human resources director should be appointed immediately. That position, she said, was advertised internally only, and two candidates applied: Alexander Spiller and Pamela Wu.
Spiller has been a road and bridge manager and engineering project administrator in the county since 2017. Wu, previously a supervisor in Palm Coast’s human resources department and a human resources manager at Granny Nannies, has been a case manager in the county’s HR department since 2016. Sherman recommended Wu.
Both O’Brien and Mullins were reluctant to ratify the hire immediately, preferring to let the next manager build the administrative team. “It’s not the optimal situation and it does feel rushed,” O’Brien said.
“I hate to box someone in,” Mullins said, referring to the incoming administrator.
Sherman said filling the position was “critical” for the organization, and in any case Wu would be on probation for at least six months, so the next administrator could reverse the decision and appoint a choice of his or her own–or even extend the probationary period. With that caveat, the commissioners all approved the hire, at 65,467 a year, the lowest amount on the scale. But the reclassification of the job allows that salary range to climb as high as $102,606. Wu, a Flagler College graduate–one of her references was Joe Saviak, formerly of Flagler College, now a member of Sheriff Rick Staly’s executive team–was at the meeting to accept the appointment.
The community services director’s position is not yet filled. And there’s no probationary status on the re-creation of two executive-level positions, now that it’s done: the next administrator will have to contend with the fact, and the financial implications, which were not part of the current budget. There was no discussion about the source or availability of money for the two positions, even though the commission only a few months ago was agonizing over the addition of lower-level, rank-and-file employees, over budget concerns.
Commissioners are finding themselves cornered by such hurried appointments because Coffey did not have a succession plan in place for “critical” positions, and because those who were in some of those positions resigned at least in part out of loyalty to Coffey.
Many top-level positions, on the other hand, appear not to be so affected. Sherman said many of the directors and coordinators who report to her will be fine carrying on after she leaves, but she said the commission should secure a hearing officer for personnel matters, a role she had filled.
Sherman filled in the commissioners on the search for an interim so far, with decision time approaching in early to mid-February. The process she laid out mirrors in some ways the process Palm Coast just adopted, though she also included a meal between the four or five finalists, the commission and their directors–an arrangement Palm Coast eliminated on advice of its attorney because of possible improprieties, or the appearance of impropriety, regarding the open meetings law, since the candidates would be discussing government business ahead of a decision regarding their appointment.
For now, that meal appears to still be on the schedule in the Flagler process, with no word spoken about it being open to the public or not. Sherman also recommended a blend of one-on-one meetings between commissioners and candidates as well as an open session when all five would question the candidates. Commissioners had little to say about the process at this stage. They will decide at the Feb. 4 meeting what process to adopt for the search and hiring of a permanent administrator.
The special meeting was barely attended by members of the public.
Flagler County Applicants for Interim Administrator
|Applicants||Current or last job||Location|
|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.|
|Michael Brillhart||Planning consultant||Vero Beach, Fla.|
|Jerry Cameron||Managing partner, Community Consulting and Management||St. Augustine, Fla.|
|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.|