Well, that went…OK.
Just OK. But Citrus County commissioners are backing themselves into a corner in trying to find Randy Oliver’s replacement as county administrator.
The board on Tuesday took no action in deference to Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach, who was home sick.
The other four commissioners talked about it and, once again, Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. commanded the attention.
I don’t know where Kitchen gets his information but it certainly seems fueled by paranoid gossip. Three weeks ago he attacked Schlabach on some unfounded rumor that she was going to fire Oliver. On Tuesday, he said he’s heard of clandestine plans to hire someone local.
Kitchen said the county could contract with a headhunter or “have all your friends submit resumes” and go from there. See the inference there? Somebody on the county commission wants to bring in his or her buddy. It must be so because the chairman said it.
He took it a step further. As I dropped on the Facebook page Tuesday, Kitchen said he might run for a third term if he feels that’s necessary. I’ve done this a long time, and THREATENING to run for reelection is a campaign strategy I’ve not yet seen.
Commissioner Holly Davis said she agreed with the headhunter idea, but said Kitchen and Carnahan may play a lesser role since they’ll (supposedly) be off the board in November and won’t be around to work with the new administrator.
She then made the suggestion that the two veteran commissioners participate in the entire process — except for the final vote for administrator.
Davis was only bringing up what many people were thinking. But suggesting to an elected official that he/she shouldn’t have a vote while still in office doesn’t normally play well and it didn’t Tuesday.
“To put us on the shelf and say we shouldn’t have a vote is crazy,” Commissioner Scott Carnahan said.
Commissioner Jeff Kinnard urged collaboration.
“Just a reminder we have potential applicants watching,” he said.
Then he laid down the challenge: The final decision on hiring a county administrator, he said, should come on a 5-0 vote.
That’s a helluva challenge, especially with this group. And I admire Kinnard for stepping up and suggesting it.
But how to get there? That’s the great unknown.
These aren’t philosophical debates that go well into the night. They’re not debating taxes, or impact fees, or waterfront setbacks. They’re just debating. Actually not even debating. More like squawking.
I’m tired of mentioning the name but it seems like this falls on the chairman. The man/woman with the gavel is the one who sets the tone for meeting. She/he can’t control the behavior of others, but a polite chairman usually runs a polite meeting. Just saying.
Kinnard is right. People are watching and no administrator worth his/her salt will walk into this lion’s den.
I don’t have a solution. Being nice is easy to say but not so easy to do in the political arena run by type-A personalities. Schlabach and Davis have been in office over a year and they’re still not used to the combative bullying style of debate that Kitchen and Carnahan seem to thrive on.
So it’s not like we can tell Ron Kitchen to stop behaving that way, or for Holly Davis to have thicker skin. Rather, they have to figure it out on their own. And figure it out in a hurry. Citrus County citizens are tired of this.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.