By LISA MACNEIL
Hernando Sun Reporter
At the Feb. 26, 2019 meeting, Human Resources Risk Director Christi Charlow presented to the Hernando Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) the job description for the County Administrator, as well as revisions for approval. County Administrator Len Sossamon was terminated on Jan. 29 and Deputy Administrator Jeff Rogers has stepped into the Acting County Administrator role while decisions are made on a permanent solution.
Charlow also requested staff direction on three recruitment options: to hire a third-party search firm, authorize HR to post the position on a number of websites, or to authorize the Chairman to negotiate a contract with the current Acting County Administrator, Jeff Rogers for the BOCC’s final approval.
Revisions include the requirement of residency within Hernando County, and possession of a Florida driver’s license. Business Development does not appear in the job description.
The search firms Charlow mentioned during the meeting range in cost from $5000 – $26,500 with one firm’s bid stating additional fees “for travel and brochure options.” According to Charlow, “A posting on Human Resources will cross-post to Indeed.com, Florida League of Cities would run for 60 days with no cost associated, and Florida Association of Counties which would run for 60 days at $100.00. ‘International City-County Management Association’ is another site which allows job postings which run for 60 days with a $450.00 membership fee.”
Richard Ross spoke during Citizen’s Comments before the discussion. Ross read from a prepared statement, “It’s a shame that false statements, political cliques, and outside political influence combined to remove Mr. (Len) Sossamon. Now we get to spend money searching for a replacement, based on our history will probably be a loser or somebody close to retirement that wants us to pay to move him to Florida.”
Ross went on to say, “Obviously, the costs are lower if we negotiate with Jeff (Rogers), but based on the history of this county, I don’t even know if Jeff would want to take the job for very long, unless he’s planning on building up his resume. We don’t do well with County Administrators. As soon as an Administrator disagrees with a few of the County Commissioners, or more importantly, the ‘Outside Party Influencers,’ which has been the norm in this county, they lose their job. It’s kind of a shame that we don’t keep them very long.”
Ross did not elaborate on what he meant by “Outside Party Influencers.”
Commissioner Steve Champion began the discussion, praising Acting County Administrator Jeff Rogers performance and abilities, and added, “This is why we hired him. For this reason,” meaning a succession plan that many public-sector companies have in place for higher-level managers and executives. “Why waste the taxpayers’ money to go out and (recruit). We should be looking for the next Deputy Administrator.”
Champion alluded to the current budget problems, and said, “But then again, we can’t afford it.”
Champion proposed looking internally for a Deputy County Administrator, perhaps someone currently in a Director role, who could act as Deputy Administrator alongside their Director duties, with a salary increase as the only cost to the county.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes offered his support of Champion’s idea, adding that a probationary period should be added to the County Administrator’s contract in the event that a promoted County Administrator could go back to their previous position if desired.
Addressing earlier comments by Ross, Commissioner John Allocco expressed concern that the perception of a “ ‘Good old boys system’ is alive and well in Hernando County. I don’t think it’s fair to Mr. Rogers, but I think it’s his job to lose… I don’t think it’s fair for him to step into a job with the impression of a group of people in the community thinking ‘It’s a good-old-boy, hand-him-the-job’ type situation. I don’t see any risk in spending $550 [sic] in proving that he is the best for the job.”
BOCC Chairman Jeff Holcomb added that Rogers has been instrumental in bringing departments together, where animosity existed in the past. “From what I’ve seen, he has really good ideas, his communications skills are really good… He wants what’s good for the county. He doesn’t have his own personal agenda.”
Holcomb invited Rogers to add his input, to which Rogers said, “Of course I appreciate all the nice things that have been said about me. In my job… now, and the job of any future administrator would be to give (the BOCC) counsel… the most important job is to give you thoughts from staff and citizens for you to make your decisions. My recommendation to you, and it’s the same recommendation I hold myself to – is to hire the best person for the job. I think the citizens of the county demand it and as leaders, that’s what you need to do.”
Rogers recommended that the BOCC come to a consensus on the traits and characteristics that they would want to have in the next administrator.
Rogers went on to say he would be interested in the job.
The board voted unanimously to approve revisions to the County Administrator job description, and also voted unanimously to pursue recruitment efforts via online websites and job boards.