CLEARWATER — So far, almost 40 people applied to be the county’s top executive after the county launched a national search in May.
It’s starting to look like they needn’t have bothered.
Delighted with the performance of Interim County Administrator Mark Woodard, county commissioners on Tuesday debated whether they should abandon the search since they say they are unlikely to find a candidate to rival Woodard.
The idea was floated by Commissioner Susan Latvala, who along with other commissioners, gushed about the performance of Woodard, who took over running the county in April after the firing of his predecessor Bob LaSala.
“I am so impressed by the job Mark Woodard is doing,” she said. “It feels disingenuous for the other people that are applying.”
The search for a replacement is being conducted by the county’s human resources department. Candidates have until July 31 to apply for the post. Typically many applicants wait until close to the deadline to apply because applications are often made public.
Commissioners decided to continue to accept applications for now, but said they may not proceed with the search process if there are no outstanding applicants. After the application deadline, commissioners had planned to appoint a screening committee to review résumés.
“I have very little doubt anyone will come forward and be better for this county than Mark Woodard, but we should still go through the process,” Commissioner Ken Welch said. “Mark is clearly heads and shoulders above any candidate I can see.”
Woodard has not applied yet for the post, but plans to submit his application soon, said Della Klug, senior executive assistant. The husband of former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Woodard has worked for the county since 1988.
His calm, genial approach has been a change for commissioners who cited LaSala’s caustic, combative approach to leadership as one of the factors in their decision to fire him.
He already can point to several successes, especially the resolution of a dispute with St. Petersburg over funding for emergency medical services. He also has taken steps to resolve a staffing crisis at the county’s veterans’ services offices that led to veterans complaining about the poor service.
Commissioners also have been swayed by emails from past and present county employees pleading with them to appoint Woodard. “He is clearly very loyal, highly qualified and demonstrates strength in leadership, intelligence, good decision making and uncommonly good sense,” wrote Ken Rickard, purchasing operations manager in an email. “Sometimes the best decisions are the simplest.”