Mark Woodard tells Pinellas County Commissioners Aug. 5 that he will do all he can to serve the public as the county’s new administrator.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners agreed unanimously Aug. 5 to take the “interim” off the title of County Administrator Mark Woodard.
Commissioners authorized Chair Karen Seel to negotiate a contract, schedule a meet and greet with the community, as well as a conversation with Woodard to talk about the county’s strategic direction.
Woodard thanked the commission, but reaffirmed that he prefers to work without a contract and does not want any benefits that are not offered to other employees.
“I am humbled by your kind words and confidence,” Woodard said, before promising to “come to work every day as I have for the last 26 years and to work hard to do all we can to serve the public.”
The commission was scheduled to review applications submitted to Human Resources for the new position. Instead, the consensus was to hire Woodard.
Commissioners unanimously approved a compensation agreement with Woodard during its May 6 meeting. Woodard replaced Robert LaSala who was terminated April 15. Woodard was formerly an assistant county administrator and LaSala’s chief of staff.
Commissioner Susan Latvala voiced her support for Woodard during a July 15 meeting, but the commission decided to wait until the end of the application period, July 31, to discuss the matter. Forty-six applications were received.
She said Aug. 5 that none of the applicants was as qualified as Woodard in part due to his in-depth knowledge of the county.
“There’s a value in that,” she said.
“I’ve known Mark for 16 years,” Seel said. “But as second in command, you can’t show your leadership skills.”
Seel and other commissioners commented that since Woodard had been appointed interim administrator he had shown his “style of leadership and connection with employees.”
Seel compared Woodard’s commitment to public service to that enjoyed by the county under the leadership of former administrator Fred Marquis.
Latvala praised Woodard for his ability to communicate with commissioners and his ability to provide “information on anything.”
“I have two words to describe Mark Woodard – total professional,” said Commissioner John Morroni.
Commissioner Charlie Justice said he supported the decision to offer the job to Woodard, but was concerned about the process. He said some of those who had applied were “quality applicants.”
Commissioner Norm Roche agreed with Justice and pointed out that time and money was spent on a search.
Latvala said the commission wasn’t aware of Woodard’s abilities and skills until he started doing the job. She agreed that some of the applicants seemed “very qualified.”
“I didn’t know we had such a capable man under our own roof,” she said.
She said the last few months had shown that Woodard was the best qualified for the job.
Commissioner Janet Long praised Woodard for “changing the culture in Pinellas County.”
“There’s no strong history of promoting from within,” she said.
She said in the past when top management positions needed to be filled, the first thought was to look outside.
“This is a breath of fresh air,” she said.
Woodard began his career with the county in June 1988 as a senior financial management analyst before moving into the position of director of the Office of Management and Budget and then the assistant county administrator and chief of staff.
“I will work to set the standard for public performance in America,” Woodard said.