Pensacola, Florida
Sunday November 23rd 2014

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The Buzz 4/11/13

Looking for a Leader

Escambia County is still searching for an administrator. After being told that initial search results were “a little light”—and discussing keeping Interim Administrator George Touart at the helm—commissioners decided to extend the search for a few more months.

The commission is also forming a five-person committee to help narrow down the final field of applicants when the search wraps up in three months. Commissioner Grover Robinson said the county should stay committed to bringing on a new administrator by the fall of 2013.

“I think that’s a signal we need to send to the public,” he said.

Commission Chairman Gene Valentino continued to express concern about hiring someone unfamiliar with the local landscape.

“I’m cautious about looking to find someone from the other end of the Earth that doesn’t understand the nuances of Escambia County,” the chairman said, suggesting the county may have too much on its plate to accommodate a learning curve—“I’m fearful with all the dynamic balls we have in the air right now.”

Upon hearing the search report from the Human Resources Department, commissioners had briefly discussed dropping “interim” from Touart’s title and offering a $10,000 raise.

“Another year or two with George would suit me fine,” Commissioner Wilson Robertson had told the board.

Valentino downplayed any controversy surrounding Touart—the interim has served Escambia before, having stepped down amidst a cloud of ethics suspicions—and described him as the “workhorse that’s turned things around.” He said the selection of a county executive should not be driven by public sentiment, that the relationship was “private, more internal.”

“It’s intimate, it’s one one one, it’s collaborative and it’s got to be a chemistry that works for all of us,” Valentino said.

Commissioners Steven Barry, Lumon May and Grover Robinson all spoke against suspending the administrator search and keeping Touart permanently. Robinson said he thought the current batch of 42 applicants should be given another look.

“I could care less if you’ve got 42 or 100, you’re probably only gonna interview five,” he said. “Do you have five good people in here? Yes.”

In addition to extending the search for 90 days, the commission also decided to up the salary ceiling being offered, from $150,000 to $165,000. Touart declined any notion of a raise for the remainder of his time with the county.

“I told them I didn’t want the raise,” the interim administrator said, “and I was satisfied with what I was getting.”