Executive recruiter Renee Narloch leaned heavily on candidates with local ties when she put together her list of 10 possible replacements for retiring County Administrator John Gallagher.
As expected, Chief Assistant County Administrator Michele Baker made the first cut. The other finalists were divided into two groups. In the top group, five of the six candidates have Florida ties:
Johnson has held senior level executive positions in Hillsborough County for 20 years. He was a longtime budget director and former assistant county administrator before holding his current position.
Harness has spent 10 years as assistant county administrator in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. He is also a finalist for the executive director position at the Hillsborough County Children’s Board and is scheduled to interview for that position on May 9.
Bartolotta resigned in 2012 under pressure from the Sarasota council after being accused of computer fraud. Bartolotta maintained his innocence – and he was later cleared of any wrongdoing – but he said the council had lost faith in him.
In his cover letter, Bartolotta describes himself as a “hard working, professional, ethical and supportive manager” with more than 35 years of experience.
Rabun has worked as a city and county manager for more than 30 years. He has spent the last five years as a local governance adviser in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Research Triangle Institute and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“Throughout my career, I have been an innovator, an energetic communicator, a problem solver and a strategic leader who has always provided sound advice, equal treatment and timely follow-up to my elected body,” he wrote.
Oliver was fired in 2012 by a county commission that has gone through seven administrators in 14 years. He has a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree of business administration and is the only candidate who is also a registered professional engineer and a certified public accountant.
“Frequently someone is required from the outside that is willing to make the tough decisions in these economic times, resolve immediate issues and restore trust,” he wrote in his cover letter. “My last several positions have involved cutting budgets, maintaining property tax rates with little or no loss in services.”
Gonzalez, who is contracted to stay with Irving through September, has sparked the most conversation, partly because he was in Tampa last week to interview for the director position at Tampa Bay Water.
Gonzalez has made headlines for drawing one of the highest government salaries in Texas.
The city has won prestigious management awards, but Gonzalez has been accused of ethical violations. Gonzalez was alleged to have taken sports tickets and gratuities from vendors doing business with the city of Irving, according to published reports.
Pinellas Commissioner Susan Latvala, who chairs Tampa Bay Water, said the board did not have access to information about Gonzalez’s alleged transgressions. By all accounts, he wowed the board and was a clear favorite for the director’s position. But the morning after the interview, he called Latvala to withdraw his name from consideration.
“When he left us, he got on a plane to interview for a job in Washington, D.C.,” Latvala said. “He told me in the interview that he had several other interviews lined up, and he also told me he was concerned about the salary.”
Gonzalez earned a base salary of $246,000 at Irving but also gets a city car, a housing allowance and other benefits that brought his total earnings to $450,000 a year.
The Tampa Bay Water position was posted with a salary range up to $200,000, Latvala said.
Pasco Commission Chairman Ted Schrader and Commissioner Henry Wilson both interviewed Gonzalez for the Tampa Bay Water position. Schrader called him “dynamic,” but worried that Pasco wouldn’t be able to meet his salary requirements.
“I know he expects a salary above $200,000,” Schrader said. “If you’re not going to go there, there’s no reason to shortlist him.”
Wilson said he was less concerned. “I interviewed him as well,” he said. “He was willing to take a pay cut because of the busy life he’s had up until now. He’s wanting to spend more time with his family and do less traveling.”
In his cover letter, Gonzalez wrote that “we demonstrate our commitment to our people by encouraging them to work smarter, not harder, and to spend time with his or her family and make attending school functions and extracurricular activities a priority.”
Commissioners plan to shortlist up to five candidates at their May 14 meeting and schedule interviews on May 23-24.