Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Interim Leader Assesses the Job

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Interim Leader Assesses the Job

Article excerpt

SARASOTA

SARASOTA: First order of business is zeroing in on county staff's priorities

When Thomas Harmer arrived at the county offices Monday -- half an hour early, as usual -- he checked emails and prepared for his first day in charge of 2,100 Sarasota County staff members. Then, in a series of meetings, he heard their priorities -- more than 40 of them.

The interim administrator said he will concentrate on juggling the numerous projects and operations of Sarasota County, and try not to focus on the fact that commissioners are treating his next three to six months in the top job as a test period to see if they want him to take over permanently.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to hire Harmer as interim administrator for half a year, and will evaluate his performance in three months. During that time, they will not search for anyone else to replace former county administrator Randall Reid, whom they fired last week.

Reid was administrator for less than two years. Commissioners terminated him for a variety of reasons, including communications issues and low employee morale.

They immediately turned their attention to Harmer, the deputy administrator Reid hired about a year ago, who commissioners said has the business background that Reid lacked.

The commissioners agreed to increase Harmer's annual salary by $20,000, to $180,000, on Tuesday, and showered him with compliments.

"We are fortunate to have had the ability to call on you as a backup," Commissioner Nora Patterson said.

If the county did a candidate search now, Patterson told Harmer, "you probably rise to the top anyway."

Commissioner Christine Robinson said she already saw a difference in staff confidence, and interaction with commissioners has been boosted in the short time since Reid left.

A stream of staff members have come into her office to update her on county projects, something she hasn't seen since the previous interim administrator, Terry Lewis, was here, Robinson said. …

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