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Board votes to spend $14,750 to outsource search for new administrator

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By Chris Van Ormer

INVERNESS — A professional headhunter will be hired to find candidates to fill the position of the next county administrator.

By a 4-1 vote, the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) decided on Tuesday to engage the services of an executive recruitment firm, Mercer Group, for a fee of $14,750 including expenses to bring forward a choice of prospects rather than ask county staff to try to fill the position “in house.”

“We either use a firm or we do it internally,” Sherry Anderson, human resources director, told the board. “I will tell you that I don’t have the opportunity these agencies have to get in contact with the people that they know of that might be interested in moving or relocating or changing jobs. They might not be actively looking for jobs, but they go out and actively try to recruit executives to come and be interviewed by the county commissioners for the position of county administrator.”

County Administrator Brad Thorpe plans to retire on Sept. 26. 

Anderson said a recruitment firm could shorten the average of 88 days it takes to get a new administrator hired. Such firms keep active databases of potential candidates. At the same time, no one would be excluded from consideration as the firm would be open to new candidates through advertisements. 

Commissioners would be given a pool of candidates to interview individually, Anderson said.

“You are driving the train,” Anderson said. “They are facilitating it.”

Commissioner Joe Meek favored hiring a recruitment firm because so many department heads have left county government and a new administrator is needed quickly. 

“It takes the politics out of it,” Meek said.

Commissioner Dennis Damato said using an outside third party would offer the best opportunities at this time of transition.

Commissioner Rebecca Bays said that hiring someone through the internal process would bring fewer applicants as they would be wary of the Sunshine Law, which could expose candidates who are currently employed.

Commission Chairman John “JJ” Kenney also supported using the Mercer Group.

Commissioner Scott Adams, however, wanted county staff to facilitate the hiring.

“It’s not a crisis,” Adams said. “I feel confident with staff.”

Adams said he wanted to see the status quo maintained until the upcoming election is over.

Contact Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer at 352-564-2916 or cvanormer@chronicleonline.com.