DADE CITY — Pasco County’s proposed budget includes funding to give county employees a maximum 5 percent raise — with one exception.
Under the terms of her contract, County Administrator Michele Baker could receive a $10,000 salary bump if she receives a positive evaluation from commissioners. That equates to 5.8 percent, and it isn’t sitting well with Commissioner Henry Wilson.
Wilson said she shouldn’t get more than 5 percent, which equates to $8,500. Wilson was the only commissioner who voted against hiring Baker and voted against her contract last summer.
Baker earns $170,000. She got a 24 percent pay raise last year when commissioners made her the acting county administrator before promoting her to succeed John Gallagher, who retired after 35 years at the helm.
“I negotiated a contract where I didn’t take a raise at the time,” Baker said. “I told the commissioners to let me prove myself. The demands of the job are extreme, and I do feel I’ve earned it.”
The raise isn’t a given. Commissioners will evaluate her performance over the next two weeks, and she must exceed expectations to earn the full $10,000. Commissioners will score Baker in six major categories, including her relationship with the commissioners and other elected officials, her professional skills, financial management, and how she deals with the public and her staff.
“I’m going to put a lot of time into reflecting on the last year,” Chairman Jack Mariano said. He praised Baker for speeding up the county’s permitting process and improving customer service, but there have been times they haven’t seen eye to eye, he said.
Commissioners Pat Mulieri admits the board has been too lax about critiquing their administrator.
“Years ago, when I came here, we didn’t evaluate our administrator,” she said. “Gallagher used to always say you evaluate me every week. But I think it’s important.”
Commissioner Ted Schrader said he doesn’t need a scorecard to judge Baker’s work.
“She’s met all my expectations, and in many cases, exceeded them,” he said. “John just became set in his ways, and not to be critical, but that’s what you get when you have someone for 35 years. I think change can be a good thing.”
One of Baker’s biggest challenges in the first year was replacing several key administrators who retired in the last year. She hired several department heads and replaced three of her four assistant county administrators.
“I think she’s assembled a team we can all be proud of,” Schrader said. “In the one instance where she recommended someone to us who wasn’t going to work out, she took quick and swift action to remedy it. To me, that demonstrates real leadership.”