Pinellas County commissioners made a wise decision Tuesday to hand the county’s top administrative job to Mark Woodard, a longtime assistant administrator who impressed everyone after being handed the job four months ago on a temporary basis.
In his short time as interim county administrator, Woodard helped resolve a simmering dispute with St. Petersburg over funding for emergency medical services, cut $1.2 million from the budget by canceling contracts with consultants, and rearranged the county’s veterans services offices after learning of widespread complaints.
It’s doubtful an outsider lacking the institutional knowledge Woodward has accumulated in his 26 years with the county could have gotten the same results in such a short period of time.
He also demonstrated during the past months that he has the management chops to go along with his deep understanding of how the place works.
Woodard was hired as a financial analyst and promoted to director of the Office of Management and Budget before becoming assistant county administrator in 2005.
Commissioners turned to him in April after the sudden and forced departure of his former boss, Bob LaSala, whose abrasive style alienated commissioners and damaged efforts to resolve the emergency medical services dispute.
Woodard has the opposite bearing.
Commissioners on Tuesday praised his professionalism and said they felt confident he was giving them all the information they needed to make decisions. County workers sent emails to commissioners urging them to stop the nationwide search for a new administrator and give the job to Woodard. And rather than force a negotiation over a new salary, Woodard has requested his salary remain at his current $199,500 annual pay.
It was a classy move, and not at all surprising from Woodward, who is married to former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. He is not the type to seek the spotlight or engage in theatrics. He will demand results and carefully attend details.
The only downside to his promotion is where he lives. Woodard and Iorio have lived in Tampa during his employment with Pinellas County. He said Tuesday that he spends more waking hours in Pinellas than he does in Hillsborough.
In any event, there is no residency rule for the job, and that one issue pales to the upside Woodard brings to the job.
Commissioners were right to begin a nationwide search for a new administrator. And they were right to end that search when they realized the candidate they wanted was right under noses.