“Only 60 people applying for that position?” Commissioner Jack Mariano said. “I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen so far.”
The board hired Tallahassee firm Bob Murray & Associates in January to recruit a successor to John Gallagher, who is retiring after 31 years as county administrator. Commissioners got their first look at the applicants last week, and headhunter Renee Narloch is scheduled to present her top candidates on May 7.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she believed the position would have attracted at least 100 applicants, and more from outside of Florida. That’s why she pressed the board to hire an executive search firm, so that a headhunter would be able to go out and recruit the best candidates, even those who aren’t necessarily job hunting.
But only a handful of the applicants appear to meet the county’s basic criteria: that they have experience managing a city or county with a comparable population and $1 billion budget.
Instead, Pasco got applications from the city managers of Mascotte (pop. 5,175), Culpeper, Va. (pop. 16,662); Chowchilla, Calif. (pop. 19,044) and Hamtramck, Mich. (pop. 22,198).
Purchasing Director Scott Stromer said that potential applicants may have “shied away” from the job because they knew Pasco already has a strong, internal candidate in Chief Assistant County Administrator Michele Baker, whom Gallagher has groomed for the job.
Another problem might be that Pasco is competing with Alachua and Lee counties for the same pool of candidates, Stromer said.
“We didn’t post a salary range, that might have had something to do with that,” he added.
The job posting also attracted multiple applicants with little to no administrative experience, including a couple of graduate students, a self-employed musician, a high school teacher and a car parts salesman.
“I was also disappointed at the quality of the applicants,” Commissioner Pat Mulieri said. “I said we should have just given it to Michele and saved $40,000.”
Baker has remained mum on the subject. “There’s really nothing to be gained by commenting on the search,” she said.
Narloch had told commissioners Pasco County would be an easy sell. “I just really see you in the driver’s seat here,” she said in January. “You have examples in this state of how not to develop a county. You’re managing growth here, and you’re doing it well. You’re in a very exciting stage of growth.”
Narloch is scheduled to present her recommendations on May 6. Commissioners were planning to interview the finalists the week of May 20. Mulieri said she did a Web search of some of the applicants. “I said oh my God, we don’t want them,” she said. “Some of the applicants have problems. I thought they were going to look far and wide and up and down.”
Chairman Ted Schrader told the other commissioners to contact Narloch and share their concerns with her directly. Starkey tried calling Narloch Wednesday but said she did not get a returned call. “I am not happy,” she said.
Stromer said there may still be time to extend the search. But Gallagher already has pushed his retirement back a month to May 31.