County looking to hire new manager by end of May


Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 6:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 6:31 p.m.

Alachua County needs a new county manager, and it plans to pick one from a pool of about 60 candidates by the end of May.

The new hire will replace Acting County Manager Richard Drummond, who is ready to step down after taking over for former County Manager Randall Reid after Reid left to take a job with Sarasota County in January 2012.

The county hopes to select a new county manager by the end of May and have him or her ready to start work by July 31.

"I'm very optimistic that we will have that done," said Betty Baker, deputy county manager.

The County Commission is paying an executive search firm, Bob Murray and Associates, to manage the job search. It picked the company as its top choice in December.

The company's estimated fee for the project is $16,500, along with as much as $7,500 in extra expenses, although the latter figure doesn't include travel costs for the top candidates who come to Gainesville for interviews.

S. Renee Narloch, director of the firm's East Coast office in Tallahassee, is overseeing the search.

There were about 60 applicants for the position as of early this week, Baker said. Not all of them were necessarily considered competitive candidates during the firm's screening process, which includes background checks and interviews.

Narloch will narrow the pool to a list of 10 to 15 potential hires, and the commission will meet May 10 to select its top five, Baker said. The finalists will be invited to come to Gainesville for in-person interviews on May 16-17.

Candidates will have one-on-one interviews with each commissioner as well as any constitutional officers interested in meeting them on May 16. That afternoon, the county will host a stakeholder reception so community groups and members of the public can meet the candidates.

Residents will be able to offer their opinions on the prospective hires to commissioners, although the county hasn't yet determined how it will handle that, Baker said.

The commission will interview each candidate as a board on May 17 and will pick its top three choices at its meeting the following Tuesday, May 21.

Negotiations with the commission's first choice will begin after that. Chairman Mike Byerly is the only commissioner personally involved in negotiations, although the commission will identify contract parameters and must approve the final agreement as a board.

"But with them giving us parameters, we'll know how (high) we can go or how low," Baker said.

The commission discussed possible contract stipulations at its policy discussion meeting this week. Baker told the board there isn't a salary range for the county manager but said the commission could consider industry standards or sample contracts for guidance.

Commissioner Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson said each part of the contract — salary, relocation expenses, work-related memberships — carries a cost for the county but that he cares more about the total price tag rather than how the money is distributed.

Commissioner Charles "Chuck" Chestnut IV said he was interested in learning about standard practices for this kind of contract, wondering if the county will lose candidates if it nitpicks on issues such as relocation expenses.

The staff plans to research county manager contracts from other places and report back to the board, Baker said.

Commissioner Mike Byerly pointed out the county can move to its second or third choice if the top candidate's demands are unreasonable.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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