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Pensacola Could Hire Assistant Administrator Soon

Lindsay Myers

The short list of candidates for the assistant administrator for the City of Pensacola is out, and has gotten shorter. Final selections appear to be on the horizon.

City spokesman Vernon Stewart declined a request by WUWF for an interview with City Administrator Eric Olson, saying in an email Wednesday that the city was “close to making a decision on this.”

Reports have said that, instead of hiring both assistants, the city would hire one at the beginning. Mayor Ashton Hayward appears to be leaning that way, but adds that nothing is in concrete just yet.

“We had some really good candidates, some quality folks and some great interviews,” said the Mayor. “And we’ve narrowed that focus down and looking at bringing in two assistant city administrators. I’m not going to rule out completely bringing two on board immediately, but right now we’re looking at one.”

Speaking Tuesday aboard NAS Pensacola, the Mayor said an announcement could be made in the next couple of weeks or sooner, to fill the vacancy created when Eric Olson became Administrator and Tamara Fountain left City Hall.

Five candidates were selected originally, but two have since withdrawn. The finalists are Casey Street – a Pensacola native living in Washington, D-C; James LaBar – a UWF graduate now in Portland, Oregon, and Keith Wilkins -- Escambia County’s Natural Resources Director and said by some to be the front-runner.

“Keith’s a great guy, a great reputation in our great city and county,” said Hayward. “He’s done great things for Escambia County over the years. I think he would be great. The other gentleman we met with, James LeBar – great guy – got his master’s at UWF, [and is] another great candidate. It will be a hard decision.”

This hiring will come on the heels of the Pensacola City Council’s hiring of its own Executive Assistant. Dan Kraher is scheduled to begin work overseeing the Office of the City Council on October 26. The Council acted on its own to hire Kraher, and Hayward says he’ll do the same in hiring Olson’s assistants.

“Obviously, we’ve always been there the last five years to support the Council if they need anything,” Hayward said. “He [Kraher] will work with our team, and we’ll make sure it’s an easy process.”

The original plan was to hire a pair of city assistants – one for daily administration and one for policy – in what’s viewed as a throwback to the old Manager-Council form of government.

Hayward says hiring the assistants are a matter of getting rid of some of the bureaucratic clutter on City Hall’s 7th Floor.

“That’s one thing that’s been a little confusing,” said Hayward. “At the end of the day everybody works for the Mayor, and there’s a change of command.”

There’s no set salary for the positions. That will depend on the selected candidate's qualifications.