After going through 56 applications for a new Administrator, Santa Rosa County officials have their man – from just down the hall.
Tony Gomillion will move from his current position as the county’s Public Service Director since 2003, into the chair being vacated by Hunter Walker – who’s retiring next month after 20 years.
“Taking the next step,” said Gomillion. “Having a desire to have a challenge, meet the challenge, and put together a new team of strong leaders for our county.”
It’s Gomillion’s third county position. He was also Santa Rosa’s Environmental Director from 1986 to 2003. He was selected Monday by the County Commission from two other finalists: Barrow County, Georgia Administrator Randall Dowling and Jackson County Administrator Ted Lakey. Gomillion believes his nearly 30-year resume gave him the inside track.
“I’ve got a wide range of experience with our county government,” Gomillion said. “I think it does give me a perspective as I look at solving problems and look at issues that come up.”
County commissioners brought in the three finalists for interviews last week, and met with them individually. Prior to the vote, Chairman Don Salter says they praised Gomillion for his service and desire to move forward. Another tipping point in favor of Gomillion was the changes he’s made to the Public Service Department.
“[Gomillion] really concentrated on improving customer service and efficiencies,” Salter said. “There was (sic) a lot of good qualities about each of the three finalists. But in the end, we felt like there was no reason to make a major change, when you had someone who had been performing well over the last several years.”
County Administrators work with the county commission; recommend a yearly operating budget, draw up meeting and policy agendas, and work with agencies on the local, state, federal and non-profit levels. Salter likens the job to a company’s CEO.
Coming up for Tony Gomillion, he’ll be working on the transition with outgoing Administrator Hunter Walker.
“As a matter of fact, he and I spoke about some things that he and I [will] get involved in, so there will be a seamless transition when that time comes,” Gomillion said.
But before that, there’s a little matter of contract negotiations between Gomillion and County Attorney Roy Andrews. The advertised salary range for the position is $115,000 to $145,000 annually. That process begins during Thursday’s regular meeting.
Gomillion also had some thoughts about replacing Hunter Walker – who he calls a “great leader,” in acknowledging the size of the shoes he has to fill.
“You always feel a little inept when you try to step into somebody else’s spot, when they’ve been in a place for 20 years as [Walker] has,” said Gomillion. “You know there are expectations people have for how things have been done, and he’s done a great job for our county. All I can do is be Tony and try to do the best I can. But he set the bar high.”
A search committee from the Florida Association of County Managers reviewed all 56 applicants, sending eight candidates to the Santa Rosa Commission -- which then pared down to the final three – leading them in-house to Tony Gomillion.