Forward Pinellas executive director scores 90% on annual review

Forward Pinellas Executive Director Whit Blanton thanks the board of directors for their comments during his annual review June 10, which coincides with his fifth year of service.

CLEARWATER — Forward Pinellas Board of Directors conducted the annual performance review for its top management official on June 10.

For the most part, everyone was pleased with the job being done by Executive Director Whit Blanton, who is marking his fifth year leading the combined Pinellas Planning Council and Metropolitan Planning Council.

“All in all it was an excellent review,” said Forward Pinellas Chair Dave Eggers.

A summary of overall results of the annual performance review from board members showed Blanton earning a composite score of 3.6, or 90%, out of a perfect score of 4, which means excellent performance.

Five directors failed to submit a review: David Allbritton, Clearwater vice mayor; Julie Ward Bujalski, Dunedin mayor; Joanne Kennedy, Indian Rocks Beach mayor; Sandra Bradbury, Pinellas Park mayor; and new director Connor Donovan, Tarpon Springs commissioner.

Two directors gave Blanton a perfect score: Vice Chair Darden Rice, St. Petersburg councilmember, and Michael Smith, Largo commissioner. Brandi Gabbard, St. Petersburg councilmember, and Suzy Sofer, Belleair Bluffs vice mayor, gave him a 3.9, and Ken Welch, Pinellas County commissioner, scored him at 3.7.

Blanton’s lowest score came from Director Janet Long, a Pinellas County commissioner. She gave him a 2.8. He received a 3 from Karen Seel, another of the county commissioners on the board. Eggers, the board’s fourth member from the county commissioner, scored Blanton at 3.5.

A comparison of his overall and section scores from 2019 to 2020 included a 3.6 in both years for partnerships and for leadership effectiveness. His score improved from 3.6 to 3.7 for fiscal management. But he had a decline from a 3.8 in 2019 to 3.6 in 2020 for external communications and a 3.8 to 3.4 for internal communications and reporting.

His overall score from 2020 was down from 3.7 in 2019.

Still most of the director’s comments were good with some encouraging him to focus on communication skills. He received praise for his ability to form relationships with the many agencies involved locally and regionally.

Blanton thanked board members for their “kind words and support.”

“This is not an easy job, but one I love,” he said, adding that it takes forging partnerships to make progress.

Eggers agreed, saying “good relationships don’t just happen.”

Blanton will receive the same 3% pay raise as other county employees. He currently makes $170,476.

During his recognition for five years of service, Blanton said when he interviewed for the position, it was considered as his “dream job.”

“I still feel that way today,” he said, adding that the county has a tremendous group of talented people that make things happen.

“I hope to stay for another five to 10 years,” he said.

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