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Escambia County Administrator Search Continues

Escambia County

Selecting a new Escambia County Administrator will take a bit longer. Instead of making the decision Friday, the County Commission voted 5-0 to put it off until April 3rd.  

For three and a half hours Thursday, the Escambia County Commission listened to its five finalists to succeed the late George Touart. Beforehand, Chairman Lumon May once again criticized the selection process conducted by the Dallas-based head-hunting firm Waters Consulting.

“Quite frankly, I’m very disappointed that we didn’t have any minorities, women, or people of color” May said. “I’ve had several professionals to look, and there were many candidates that were not brought forth who had more years of experience, high levels of education, and more education.”

The commission also entered into a half-hour discussion on severance pay. The last two full-time administrators – Bill McLaughlin and Randy Oliver – were summarily fired. The Commission set severance pay at 90 days. A motion to include Interim Administrator Larry Newsome failed on a 3-2 vote, but he remains in play even though he did not apply.

“From the debacles with ECUA, from the Local Option Sales Tax, taking over the library, taking over the jail, trying to handle economic development,” said Commissioner Wilson Robertson, “You don’t bring someone new in, in my opinion, to take over those kinds of projects.”

The Commission went back into special session at midday Friday with Wilson Robertson repeating an 11th hour push for Newsome, as did Commissioner Gene Valentino.

Chairman Lumon May and Commissioner Steven Barry favor considering only the five finalists. Barry says this is not an evaluation of Newsome’s job performance.

Another Commissioner in favor of hiring from the five is Grover Robinson, who took exception to claims from Valentino that the apparent consensus choice – Taylor County Administrator Jack Brown – had applied too late.

Robinson was referring to an email dated February 10th to him and county Personnel Director Tom Turner from Andrea Sims at Waters Consulting – which confirmed Brown’s application was on time. That wasn’t good enough for Valentino.

Chairman Lumon May requested the Friday noon meeting, saying he needed more to reflect on the finalists and to meet with Larry Newsom. He also supported the idea to solicit a certified letter from Waters Consulting that Jack Brown did apply before the deadline.

The county paid Waters Consulting more than $25,000 to search for the five finalists.

Besides Jack Brown, the other finalists are another Floridian, Ted Lakey from Graceville, who’s a former Escambia County road prison manager; Albert Peskna of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, former Pensacola City Administrator Bill Reynolds, and John Weaver from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.