NEW PORT RICHEY — It took eight months and dozens of interviews, but County Administrator Michele Baker is finally rounding out her leadership team.
“It’s taken a long time to do, but that’s because it’s so important to find the right people with the right blend of skills — and now we finally have that,” Baker said.
County commissioners on Tuesday confirmed Baker’s choice of Randy TeBeest for the newly created position of assistant county administrator for public safety. TeBeest retired last year after a 23-year career at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, where he served as commanding officer of the operations center at MacDill Air Force Base.
TeBeest said he sought the position because he wanted to continue his career in public service. “I saw local government as where the action is,” he said. “Your constituents are right here in front of you — that’s not something we dealt with as much on the federal level.” He started Tuesday and oversees Pasco Fire Rescue, Emergency Management and the consolidated communications center.
“I see a lot of opportunity right here,” he said. “I had a number of people working for me at NOAA who lived in Pasco, and they really like the environment. It’s growing, but there’s still elbow room.”
TeBeest received a degree in mechanical engineering from The College of New Jersey. He also holds a law degree from Taft University. His starting salary is $105,000.
Baker also named Donnie Rosenthal to replace development services administrator Bipin Parihk, who retired in 2013. Rosenthal will leave his position as building director for the city of Atlanta to relocate to Pasco County.
Rosenthal graduated from Loyola University and received his MBA in finance and accounting from Regis University. He led a citywide reorganization of Atlanta’s permitting, plan review and inspections departments to make them more business-friendly.
“I am actually doing all of the things you are looking to have done there in Atlanta now in my current position and I am very confident I can recreate my success there,” he wrote in his application.
He starts March 17; his salary is $120,000.
When commissioners hired Baker to succeed longtime County Administrator John Gallagher last summer, she said filling the development position was her first priority. But the job will end up being the last one she fills.
Baker also promoted Richard Gehring to a newly created position: Strategic Policy Administrator. Gehring will work with the Tourist Development Council and help Baker with policy, long-term funding strategies and public-private partnerships. He will receive a $20,000 pay raise, to $123,000.
Baker spent seven years as chief assistant county administrator under Gallagher, but she ultimately decided against keeping that position. Instead, her former duties are spread among the members of the leadership team, which also includes Heather Grimes, Bruce Kennedy and Suzanne Salichs.
“This reorganization allows us to flatten the organization and save a little bit of money — so it’s a win-win,” Baker said.