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Friday July 19th 2019

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Five Questions for Janice Gilley

By Rick Outzen

At a special meeting on Monday, April 29, the Escambia Board of County Commissioners voted to hire Janice Gilley as the first female county administrator for the county.

Gilley, an Escambia County resident, currently serves as the associate vice president of external affairs for the president at the University of West Florida, where she oversees the management of special projects and governmental relations and serves as the liaison to the university’s board of trustees.

In May 2002, Gilley was appointed to complete the term of County Commissioner Mike Bass after he was indicted by a grand jury, along with three other commissioners. Prior to the appointment, she had served as staff director for the Florida House Majority Office and assistant to State Rep. Jerry Maygarden. Since then, she has served in the governor’s office and is currently a member of the Santa Rosa Island Authority.

Days after the commission vote, Inweekly spoke with Gilley about her experiences in politics and her views on county government.

INWEEKLY: You served on the county commission from 2002 to 2004. What were some of the lessons you learned serving on the county commission?
GILLEY: It is a serious responsibility of the commission to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. And if you remember, I came in at a time when money had maybe not necessarily been spent as wisely as it should. And as soon as it was disclosed to the public, it did create a type of a crisis regarding misusing money on land. You have to always be very careful with taxpayers’ dollars. They have to make sure that they’re getting the value that they expect from their government. And it’s your job also, as being a member of the commission, to make sure that you are articulating how you’re spending that money and making sure that it still meets the priorities and the expectations of the community.

INWEEKLY: You’ve had a lot of experiences over 15 years since you served on the county commission. Of those experiences, what do you think is going to help you be a good county administrator?
GILLEY: Well, one of the main things that I have had experience doing is looking at policy, making sure that policy is developed in such a way that it meets the needs of the elected officials and those in the citizenry. Policy is what should drive your budget, and then it also should drive your implementation. So you have to get the policy right from the beginning, which means everybody has to be at the table to make sure that you are getting everyone’s input to develop the policy. Then when you pass the policy, that’s also another chance for everyone to take a bite at the apple and say this is exactly how we want the policy to look. And then you have to follow through on implementation after it’s been funded.

Implementation without a doubt is the hardest part of policy, but you have to be tenacious, and, if you’ve developed the right policy, then it’s very easy to see it through to implementation. But part of that is making sure that the people that are part of the implementation are also part of the conversation on the front end. You know, we sometimes have some really great ideas, but it’s extremely difficult to implement. And so we also need to make sure that we take feedback in such a way that actually makes sense because the last thing you want to do is pass a policy that is impossible to implement.

INWEEKLY:  What are some of the changes you’ve seen in Escambia County government over this past 15 years?
GILLEY: I think one of the things that is very different is the amount of transparency. I think that this commission has a commitment to trying to find ways to make sure that citizens are very aware of how every penny is spent, so what I call their “check register” is basically available so that people can see any money that has been spent, any check that has been written.  Contracts, conversations about anything that is being done in government, I do not believe this board is afraid of that. I would say 15 years ago, having conversations about the inner workings of county government or contracts or things like that were definitely taboo. That is not the case today. What I would like to see is us take it to the next level and just make sure that there is such transparency that citizens absolutely have trust and confidence in everything that this commission does.

INWEEKLY:  You’ve met with all five commissioners. What do you see as the “what” for each one of those commissioners?
GILLEY: Without naming specific commissioners, I would say it’s making sure that our county is safe and that our community centers and our neighborhood recreation areas provide all that we can to give every person an opportunity for a place to not live in isolation but to live in community and to also grow.

Another area is related to what I call capital renewal. Others call it deferred maintenance. This is an epidemic nationally where we have allowed some of our infrastructures to decay, and it’s extremely expensive to improve those infrastructures, but we have. So I think making that a priority for some of the commissioners is going to be important.

I also think that making sure that everything that the commission does, like I mentioned earlier, is transparent and accountable to the citizenry is also very important to several of the commissioners.

INWEEKLY: All right, last question, how do you plan to go about building a team once you’ve come on board?
GILLEY: One of the things that’s important is making sure that people are the right fit for the work that you want to accomplish, making sure that they know their why–why they want to do these jobs–and making sure that we have a very clear job description or actually the purpose for what we want each person to accomplish. A key for me personally will be making sure that I get the job descriptions right.

I’ve been studying the org chart as it currently stands. I’ve also been looking at org charts all around the country. I must make sure that we have that right size government for what our community can afford. But also making sure that we have the right purposes and the right “why” is going to be very important for me.

That’s going to be the first thing I’m going to do. And then from there, I’m going to start looking for people to fulfill those roles. And I’m going to be looking everywhere. I’m putting in calls to friends that I have in various networks, and I’m hoping I’ll get some responses from that.