published: Sunday, October 07, 2012
Board may start search for county administrator
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING - Highlands County commissioners will look at the possibility of advertising for a permanent county administrator when they get together Tuesday morning for their first meeting of October.
It was back in July when commissioners voted to terminate former administrator Rick Helms by a 3-2 vote. Led by commission chairman Jack Richie, along with commissioners Barbara Stewart and Ron Handley, the action vaulted then-assistant county administrator June Fisher into the post with commissioners saying they needed to "get their house in order."
Apparently, the idea was to get past the end of the budget period and give the commission time to develop their vision for what they wanted from a county administrator.
The shelf-life for that position has not been a good one in Highlands County since the retirement of longtime administrator Carl Cool. Commissioners first terminated Michael Wright then hired Helms, who had a 37-year history working his way up through the ranks of Highlands County government through the Office of Budget & Management.
Reportedly there already has been an effort to hire Fisher outright, with a number of citizens approaching at least some commissioners and urging them to dispense with any kind of search for an outside administrator. Instead, they have suggested simply naming Fisher as county administrator on a full-time basis.
It was in April of last year that commissioners voted 4-1 to elevate Fisher from her then-post as community services division director to assistant county administrator with an approximately $16,000 increase in salary/benefits, which translated to a roughly 10-percent increase over her compensation package at that time.
Fisher first worked as a planner for Highlands County 20 years ago. She later worked as a planner in Glades and Desoto counites, moving on to roles as interim county manager in Desoto with county manager stints in both Glades and Citrus counties. In 2008 she resigned from the Citrus County job to take a position as Highlands County Community Services Director under then-county administrator Carl Cool.
After Helms was terminated this past July, there was some discussion about waiting until after the election to search for a full-time replacement. Not all members of the board favored that approach, including current board chair Jack Richie.
In addition to a discussion on what to do about hiring a county administrator, commissioners are slated to accept a $44,380 check from the Avon Park Air Force Range. The money represents 40-percent of the net receipt of sales of timber from the range. Supervisor of Forest Management/Outdoor Recreation Kurt Olsen will be at the meeting to present the check and talk about that operation.
The meeting will be held at the Highlands County Government Center Tuesday morning commencing at 9 a.m. It also may be viewed online through the Highlands County Clerk of Courts web page.
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