Baker gets county helm in unanimous commission vote


Alachua County commissioners applaud Betty Baker, right, after unanimous approval of her contract as county manager during a meeting Tuesday morning.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 10:24 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 6:05 p.m.

Following failed negotiations with three consecutive finalists for county manager, Alachua County found success with its fourth selection for the position, Deputy County Manager Betty Baker.

The County Commission unanimously approved a contract for Baker on Tuesday, officially making her Acting County Manager Richard Drummond's successor. Baker, who joined the county workforce in January 2002, will take over on July 22.

The board spent weeks talking over the county manager search as it proceeded, but commissioners approved Baker's contract with little discussion between themselves or with the public.

Her contract includes a $160,000 annual salary, which the commission offered to the previous three candidates it negotiated with, as well as 5 percent deferred compensation, $250,000 in life insurance and a $450 monthly car allowance. Baker's current annual salary as deputy county manager is $129,413.

Baker is in the Deferred Retirement Option Program and is slated to retire from Alachua County government at the end of November 2014. She said in a later interview that she was humbled and honored by the commission's confidence in her.

"Believe it or not, it was always a dream of mine to manage a municipality," she said.

Baker didn't apply for the county manager job because she was already in DROP, but she is excited to be chosen for the role.

Being in DROP will not minimize her commitment in any way, she said Tuesday.

Since she is familiar with Alachua County government after working there for more than a decade, she won't need to spend time acquainting herself with county procedures and personnel the way an outside hire would. Instead, her first priority upon becoming county manager will be to fill several vacancies within the county.

She'll need to fill the deputy county manager position that she is leaving behind, among other management-level jobs. Her top priority is hiring a new budget director, although Growth Management Director Steve Lachnicht is filling in for now.

The commission officially welcomed Baker as its incoming county manager Tuesday by approving her contract, but it also recognized its outgoing manager, Drummond, during the meeting.

Drummond, who is also in DROP, is retiring this month. He took time to recognize his successor for her support during his tenure as county manager.

He handed her a plaque that usually hangs on a wall in the commission boardroom, announcing that her name had been added to it as a recipient of the County Manager's Award of Excellence.

Drummond said he couldn't have led the county for the past year and a half without her assistance.

"I couldn't have done it without all of you," he said to a room filled with many county employees.

While he recognized Baker for her accomplishments and support, the County Commission recognized him for his. Commissioner Mike Byerly announced July 11, 2013, the day of Drummond's retirement party, as Richard Drummond Day in Alachua County.

Drummond has spent about 13 years working for the county, during which time he served as growth management director before eventually taking on the role of county manager.

Now that Baker is taking over, he said she'll need to find the support network among the staff that he found in her and others. "This is a job that you can't muscle. You can't pretend to do it all yourself," he said.

Drummond summed up what Baker needs to do pretty simply. "She's got to find a Betty," he said.

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

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