What lies ahead for county's acting manager?

Rick Drummond stands on a boardwalk on the La Chua Trail in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Gainesville on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.

Jacob Romoser/Correspondent
Published: Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 8:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 8:24 p.m.

For the first time this millennium, Alachua County has a new manager.

After 12 years, Randall Reid, the longest-serving manager in the county’s history, has departed to become the Sarasota County administrator.

Taking the helm here is longtime senior administrator Rick Drummond, who is expected to be in place as acting manager for upwards of a year.

For Reid, 57, the task ahead in Sarasota is righting the ship of a county shaken up by a scandal involving favoritism in the awarding of contracts to vendors.

Drummond, 65, has to navigate Alachua County through what is expected to be another difficult budget year — one that arrives in the midst of a heated political climate leading up to an election in which three seats on the County Commission are on the ballot.

With the board down to four members in the wake of Commissioner Rodney Long’s December resignation, Drummond might face deadlocked 2-2 votes and no clear direction on policy and budgeting issues, Commissioner Lee Pinkoson said during Tuesday’s meeting.

“It’s not an enviable position,” Pinkoson said.

Gov. Rick Scott has several applicants from which he can choose a replacement for Long, but Scott has no deadline in which to make that choice. Once Scott does fill the position, the prospect of deadlocked votes disappears.

Drummond also will have to oversee the county’s negotiations with local municipalities to identify projects and attempt to reach consensus on a possible November sales tax referendum for roads and transportation needs.

By almost all accounts, his responsibilities are expected to go well beyond serving as a placeholder.

“The idea of being a caretaker manager, Rick is not going to have that luxury,” Reid said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners approved a compensation package for Drummond that includes a base salary of $160,000 — an approximately 21 percent raise from the $132,234 he received as assistant county manager.

Chairman Paula DeLaney noted that because of the difficulties expected ahead, the salary package she negotiated with Drummond was based on Reid’s compensation, which included an annual salary of $169,689. But the job lying ahead for Drummond would not be the same one Reid faced, DeLaney said.

“If anything, now it’s going to be worse,” she said.

Drummond said he is prepared. “It’s more than just a caretaker’s job,” he said. “There are going to be some big issues — going through the whole budget process and going through negotiations with the Sheriff’s Office on the future operation of the jail. It’s technically called acting county manager. It may be called acting, but it’s real. I feel really good that I know enough about the inner workings of the county government and the politics of county government. We’ll be successful.”

As for the possibility of deadlocked votes that result in no policy direction, Drummond took it in stride.

“That is what it is,” he said. “I’ve been doing this kind of work, working closely with county commissioners, a long time — even at the lower level when I was a planner in Sarasota. I’ve seen every kind of county commission there is. You take it as it comes.”

He said his responsibility will be to present commissioners with a balanced budget proposal for their consideration. The plan, he said, is a “continuation” budget with no “radical” changes.

Community priorities that he said he expects the budget to reflect are public safety through the Sheriff’s Office and the county’s Fire-Rescue Department, the alternative sentencing programs provided through the Court Services Department and the provision of social services through the Community Support Services Department.

Reid said one challenge he sees ahead for Drummond and the county is balancing the budget without dipping into reserves. Those reserves are vital in case of an emergency, Reid said, as was demonstrated by the years it took for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the county in the wake of the 2004 storms.

Two veteran administrators

Back in 2000, Reid, during his first year on the job in Alachua County, recruited Drummond as growth management director. Drummond came to Alachua County from the government body Reid has departed for — Sarasota County.

Drummond started in Sarasota as a planner in 1977 and, after an eight-year hiatus in the private sector, returned for a 12-year stint as the manager of long-range planning for the county’s Growth Management Business Center.

During that time, he wrote the first local government concurrency law in the state — one that emphasized joint transportation and land-use planning and mixed-use developments. It was similar, Drummond said, to the policies Alachua County adopted in recent years that emphasize walkable, mixed-use developments and the future development of a bus rapid transit system.

As Alachua County’s growth management director, Drummond oversaw a hotly debated rewrite of the county’s Comprehensive Plan that did not push westward with the boundary of where urban development was allowed.

In 2007, Drummond was promoted to the position of assistant county manager.

Reid said, in that position, Drummond received additional experience with budget preparation and oversight of the county’s capital projects. Reid said succession planning has always been a priority for Drummond, and he was confident that both Drummond and acting Assistant County Manager Betty Baker, who also was considered for the acting manager’s job, were qualified to take the helm.

Away from the office

Drummond has been married to his wife, Carol, for 45 years. They have two adult sons and four grandchildren. Away from the job, he enjoys writing, hiking and bird watching. One of his favorite spots is La Chua Trail in the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Much of his time away from the office is spent working on the circa-1887 home that he and his wife own in Gainesville.

He expects to have less time for all those interests for the foreseeable future. County commissioners’ current plan is to not begin the search for a permanent manager until after the November election. So Drummond could be “acting” manager for as long as 18 months.

Enrolled in the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, Drummond’s retirement date arrives in August 2013.

“By then, I’ll be ready to retire,” he said.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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