County settles on Lieberman for county attorney

Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 6:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 6:18 p.m.

The Alachua County Commission on Tuesday selected its top choice to succeed County Attorney Dave Wagner, who will retire at the end of February, with contract negotiations to follow.

The commissioners approved the selection of Michele Lieberman, who currently works in Inverness, as their No. 1 pick. Each commissioner picked their top two candidates from the five they interviewed and ranked them first and second during the board's Tuesday meeting.

Lieberman received three first-place votes, while Assistant County Attorney David Schwartz came in second with two first-place votes and two second-place votes.

The commission has specified a $175,000 salary cap with negotiations starting at a $150,000 base salary, Human Resources Manager Kim Baldry said. The contract, which the county must still negotiate with Lieberman, will also include 5 percent deferred compensation and a car allowance of around $450 per month.

Wagner makes an annual salary of just over $159,000 and gets a car allowance but does not receive county-funded deferred compensation as part of his employment contract.

If the county is unable to reach an agreement with Lieberman during the initial round of negotiations, the matter will return to the commission for further consideration.

Before selecting Lieberman, the commissioners agreed all five candidates for the position were good choices. Commissioner Charles "Chuck" Chestnut IV called them outstanding.

"I wish we could choose all of them as attorneys," he said.

During the interview process, he asked the candidates what changes they would make to the county attorney's office, and all of them answered they would need to come in and evaluate the department first before recommending any changes. That was the answer he was looking for, Chestnut said.

Commissioner Susan Baird said she thought one reason the county was able to narrow the field to five quality candidates was because the county had been specific about its criteria for applicants and what it wanted in a county attorney.

"The interview process was, of course, a great opportunity to meet them all and get to see their backgrounds and their abilities," she said. "And you know what? All five of them were great."

Commissioner Mike Byerly said he looked primarily for experience relevant to this position with the county in candidates and considered it important to find someone who would work well in terms of personality with their co-workers.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or

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