Thank goodness Grogan is aboard
Spent the better part of Tuesday afternoon researching the county administrator finalists and that was as exciting as it sounds.
I made it through one and ditched the idea. What makes me an expert on county administrators? Nothing, that’s what.
Besides, it’s the political dynamic here that’s more interesting than who the board actually hires — if anyone, at least now.
The county commission agenda for Tuesday's meeting has all the resume background on each of the four finalists: Larry Jones, Stanley Hawthorne, Steve Howard and Tobey Phillips.
The plan is to have all four in town Monday for individual 1-on-1 interviews with commissioners (and others), followed by public presentations by all four during Tuesday’s commission meeting. The board will then either pick someone, do not pick someone, or do something else, though who knows what that could be.
Points to ponder:
— Don’t expect Commissioner-Elect Rebecca Bays to cave and participate in the interviews after last week’s stare-down with Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr.
Bays believes the way many, including two commissioners, believe: This call should be with the new board that will be seated in late November, not the one that includes two commissioners on their way out the door.
Bays would not participate in Kitchen’s scoring system of administrator finalists, riling him to no end. He also included Diana Finegan, the District 2 primary winner, and District 2 NPA Paul Grogan, who was allowed to cast his ranking by email during the county commission meeting from wherever on Planet Earth he was at the time.
Despite Bays being fairly blunt that she will not be a part of what she considers a sham, the county has gone along as if she’s just kidding, even scheduling her for individual administrator interviews on Monday. At this point, that looks like a free hour for the finalists.
— Guess who will be interviewing the finalists? Yup, Grogan, the no-party superstar who’s accused of being a ghost candidate.
County Administrator Randy Oliver on Tuesday sent an invite to Grogan to participate Monday.
“I am working the details and will know for sure Wednesday, it does appear I will be there.”
Whew! This whole thing would be a waste if we couldn’t include the candidate who hasn’t received a single vote and is on the ballot only because he paid a qualifying fee.
I caught some grief last week for making a big deal of the ridiculousness of this process. What did it matter, some said, so long as the ones being interviewed are the ones everyone wanted to interview?
Fair enough. But I contend that any process that includes Grogan as a participant is fatally flawed. It is illogical for someone who isn’t a commissioner-elect to interview, in private, a county administrator finalist under the premise that he COULD be commissioner in November. Yeah, pigs could fly but they probably won’t.
Finegan, that’s a different story. Despite the shenanigans in her race, Finegan won a primary with 57% of the vote. She’s the likely election winner and will be serving with the new administrator. Unlike Bays, Finegan believes the current board should do the hiring so she’s following Kitchen's guideline nicely.
— As for what will happen Tuesday, it’s impossible to say. Kitchen and Commissioner Scott Carnahan are leaning one way. Commissioner Jeff Kinnard is leaning another. Commissioners Holly Davis and Ruthie Davis Schlabach agree with Bays that nothing should happen until the new board is seated.
My random commissioner email for this week was from Schlabach. Someone sent her an observation in favor of one of the finalists, to which Schlabach replied:
“I am concerned that this process is being pushed forward without considering the board that will have to work with the new administrator. As you are very aware, this board and its authority will no longer exist come mid-November.”
That doesn’t sound like someone ready to pull the trigger on one of these finalists.
The board agenda has these presentations at 2 p.m. Each finalist gets 15 minutes and after they’re finished, it’s discussion time.
Oliver, in his agenda memo, expects a decision:
“Once the candidate discussion is complete, the intent is for the Board to select a candidate for the Chairman and the County Attorney to negotiate a contract,” it reads.
Come Tuesday, rock meets hard place.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.