County Commission satisfied with administrator’s work

Barry A. Burton

LARGO — Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton received words of praise during his annual review Sept. 21. All in all, commissioners said they were pleased with the job he has been doing.

Burton, 57, scored an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5 when all the commissioners’ scores were put together on his annual review. He scored 4.5 for his interpersonal skills, 4.4 for his communication skills and 4.3 for this leadership and management.

Most commissioners gave Burton a 4 (exceeds expectations) or 5 (exceptional) on their individual surveys. Commissioner Kathleen Peters and Vice-Chair Charlie Justice were the only ones that gave him a 3 (meets expectations). Justice did so twice and Peters did so 11 times. Commissioner Janet Long gave Burton a 5 in all categories and Peters gave him none.

During the meeting, Justice said he appreciated Burton’s services, especially over the last two years. Justice said in the beginning he had doubts that Burton could do the job since he came “from the outside.” Burton served as the former county administrator for Lake County Illinois, starting in 2002.

Burton’s first day on the job in Pinellas County was Oct. 29, 2018.

Justice had been concerned about how Burton would handle working with 24 municipalities when he had no prior history or relationships with them.

“But he navigated successfully,” Justice said. “I appreciate his service and leadership.”

Commissioner Janet Long pointed out that she had voted against hiring Burton.

“I stand here apologetic today,” she said. “His performance has been exemplary. He’s been outstanding.”

“I voted on the right side back when,” said Commissioner Karen Seel.

She added that Burton’s work had been “amazing.”

“I’m grateful,” Seel said.

Commissioner Rene Flowers, who wasn’t part of the board when Burton was hired, said she enjoyed working with the administrator.

“He gets it,” she said. ‘He understands how to marry the issues of such a large county,” adding that he provided the best advice even when it wasn’t what he wanted to do.

She also said he wasn’t one to give “a hard no,” but instead would say, “Let me think about it.”

“I voted on the right side too,” said Commissioner Pat Gerard.

Gerard said although she had some doubts, Burton had exceeded her expectations, putting together a team that was confident and not ego-driven.

Commission Chair Dave Eggers described Burton as one of the “most fiscally responsible person ever to serve in the position.” He praised the way that Burton had advised the commission to put together a two-year budget last year and the way he had cut county expenses.

He pointed to the seven-page document Burton had provided highlighting the many advancements that had occurred over the past year. He then proposed that Burton receive a 3% pay raise.

The discussion on Burton’ review began with a report from Human Resources on comparable salaries of administrators around the state. A survey found that Pinellas County was paying in the upper one-third of the group with Broward County on the high end of the scale and Manatee County the lowest. Pinellas’ pay was deemed to be “highly competitive.”

After Eggers’ suggestion was met without a motion by any of the commissioners, Burton pointed out that the seven-page document had been put together by his personal assistant and other assistants that work for commissioners. He attributed all the accomplishments to his staff.

He thanked the commission for the “collaborative environment,” which he said allowed staff to do its job and also try things that are new.

“My wife and I love being here,” he said. “We couldn’t have landed in a better place.”

After Burton spoke, Flowers made a motion to give him the 3% pay raise, which is the same amount that other employees received as of Oct. 1. Justice seconded the motion.

Long said she thought that Burton would receive the same raise as other employees. County Attorney Jewel White explained that due to the administrator’s contract it would be better if the commissioners approved his pay increase separately.

The vote was unanimous.

Burton’s starting salary was $267,508, which was more than the $252,241 former administrator Mark Woodard was making when he retired.

His current salary is $283,774. After the raise, it will be $292,287 plus benefits. Burton’s benefits include 208 hours annual leave, which is the same as a 20-year employee, a $600 a month vehicle allowance and a $25,000 a year contribution into his 247 plan, which is tax advantaged deferred-compensation retirement plan.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.