CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala might be Mark Woodard’s best fan.
The commissioner lobbied on behalf of the interim county administrator July 15, saying it might be disingenuous for other people to apply for the job, since Woodard was doing such a good job.
“I’m so impressed with the job he’s doing as interim,” she said.
Latvala said the matter had been “weighing on me heavily,” as she brought up the matter during the section of the meeting set aside for commissioners comments and announcements. She questioned whether the commission should continue with its administrator search.
“I think he is the right person for the time, like Robert LaSala was the right for that time,” she said. “I just wanted to see if anyone else agrees.”
Commissioner Ken Welch said while “Mark was clearly his No. 1,” a competitive job search would still be good to have.
“It’s almost like running unopposed,” Welch said.
“What’s wrong with that,” Latvala answered.
Welch said he doubted that a better candidate would come forward. Still, he still prefers going through the process.
Commission Chair Karen Seel added that the application process would close July 31.
“It’s so important to have the right person at the right time,” Latvala said.
She pointed out that a new person would have a large learning curve.
“And all the new things come to a screeching halt,” she said. “I don’t want to halt what’s going on.”
Commissioner Janet Long said she was pleased with the initiatives Woodard had started.
“I’m interested in providing a real sense of stability to staff,” she said.
She said she believes Woodard has “more big stuff” to move forward to help provide that stability.
She said a hiring decision should be done “sooner rather than later.” She pointed out that people submitting applications might like to know before the county begins the vetting process.
The search of a replacement for LaSala, who was terminated in April, is being done internally by the Human Resources Department.
Commissioner Norm Roche said he agreed with everyone.
“But this is not a decision we should make at the end of a meeting under miscellaneous. It’s not on the agenda,” he said.
Roche said he was looking forward to going through the process and getting a chance “to sit down and talk to Mark for 30 to 40 minutes.”
Commissioner John Morroni also said he agreed with everyone, especially Roche’s concern that the matter was not on the agenda.
“It’s an important decision,” he said. “Put it on the agenda.”
Seel suggested that the commission wait until the end of the application process. She agreed with Welch that a competitive process could be good.
“Mark is doing a good job,” she said. “As chair, it’s been a whole lot less turbulent. Problems that used to take weeks are getting done quickly.”
She talked about other improvements, before adding that perhaps one of the most important things is that “employees are feeling valued.”