NEW PORT RICHEY - Irving (Texas) City Manager Tommy Gonzalez has turned down Pasco County's offer to be its next county administrator.
Gonzalez, 46, was the Pasco Commission's unanimous choice last month after board members interviewed four finalists. He would have succeeded County Administrator John Gallagher, who retired last month after 31 years at the helm.
A Texas native who has worked his entire career there, Gonzalez brought his family to Pasco County for the first time last week. He said he would not accept the job unless they supported the move.
He notified Chairman Ted Schrader by email over the weekend, writing that "after discussing compensation and much consideration, I don't believe this is the best fit for my family and me at this time."
Commissioners knew they could not offer a package close to the $450,000 salary and benefits Gonzalez received from Irving.
Gonzelez said the pay was only part of the reason for his decision. His family visit confirmed the decision. He said commissioners asked him to attend so many meetings during the three-day trip that he barely had any time to show his family the Tampa Bay area.
"I paid to bring my kids because I wanted (Pasco) to know that I had skin in the game," he said. "I wanted to take my wife to lunch in Tampa, but we were so rushed to catch our flight. I wanted to show my kids the beach, but we didn't even get a chance to do that."
Gonzalez had also hinted that his wife wanted him to take a job in the private sector, especially after the intense media coverage of his ouster and subsequent recruitment.
"I'm obviously disappointed because I think he would have brought a lot of positive change to Pasco County," Schrader said. "But we'll move forward from here. I'm going to put him in the rear view mirror."
Commissioners now must decide whether to extend an offer to Acting County Administrator Michele Baker or renew the search. Baker has been with the county for 20 years and served as Gallagher's chief assistant for seven years.
Commissioner Pat Mulieri, who strongly supported Baker's bid for the job, said commissioners should remove the interim label from her title.
"I would like to offer her a two-year contract, and if we're not happy then we can we do another search," Mulieri said.
Commissioner Henry Wilson, who previously stated he wanted someone "from outside of Pasco County to run Pasco County," said the board should start over with a completely new slate of candidates.
"It needs to go back and have a full board discussion," Wilson said.
Pasco used a Tallahassee-based recruiter Renee Narloch to conduct the search, and several commissioners were unhappy with the size and quality of the applicant pool. Schrader said Narloch's firm, Bob Murray & Associates, is still under contract with the county until a new administrator is in place.
"They're not finished with the task," Schrader said. "It's not our fault we didn't get him to say yes."
But Commissioner Jack Mariano said he hasn't given up on Gonzalez. "They didn't even hit a school," Mariano said. "I think we should bring them back for a second visit."