News-Sun photo by KATARA SIMMONS Ricky Helms receives supportive pats on the back Tuesday morning after being terminated as Highlands County administrator.
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published: Tuesday, July 03, 2012
By ED BALDRIDGE
SEBRING -- The county commission voted 3-2 to terminate County Administrator Ricky Helms during their meeting Tuesday.
Commissioner Barbara Stewart made the motion to terminate Helm's contract immediately and received a second from Ron Handley.
Commissioners Jack Richie, Barbara Stewart and Ron Handley voted aye to terminate Helm's contract. Don Elwell and Greg Harris and voted to keep Helms.
"I did not hear anything here today that would change my evaluation," Stewart said.
The vote to terminate came on the heels of a long presentation by Helms outlining his years of service and dedication to the county.
"How do I begin to relate what the last 38 years have meant to me?" Helms said.
"I am a trained professional and know how to leave disagreements behind and move forward. The termination at this time would not be in the best interest of the county administration or the taxpayers of Highlands County," Helms said.
Several supporters were encouraged by Helms to speak on his behalf and explain their thoughts to the commission.
"You are not getting anything if you terminate him and pay him the $50,000," said Ted Best, homeowner in Highlands County and owner of Best Insurance.
Best requested that Helms be held over until the end of his contract in eight months in order to bring his experience and education through this year's budget session.
"Do what is best for Highlands County by keeping him on through his contract," Best added.
"Firing Mr. Helms would cost the county more money than keeping him for the short time he has to go," said resident Dale Wilson.
"I am ashamed of this county for bringing this forth because I have worked with Mr. Helms since he was in the clerk's office way back when," said Nancy Wilson, who also pleaded for the commission to keep Helms.
County Resident Dale Fluke took the commission to task about not allow to the public to speak during the meeting.
"This decision was going to be rammed through except for the efforts of one man," Fluke stated about the previous efforts of Commissioner Don Elwell.
Elwell made a reasoned attempt to sway commissioners at the last meeting by comparing the numbers and polling several groups.
"If we take all the actual numbers into consideration, we find that Mr. Helms is slightly above average. Not sub par," Elwell said last month.
Elwell again left the dais to support Helms, this time to make a passionate plea to swing votes of his fellow commissioners.
"With every ounce of my being, I believe this is the right decision," Elwell said in support of keeping Helms.
Elwell took an impromptu poll by asking those who wished Helm's termination, and got a scattering of participants. When Elwell asked for those who wished Helms to keep his job until the end of his contract, almost all of those in the audience stood.
"Let the man finish his contract," Elwell said. "He was and is the best man for the job."
Elwell's stirring speech still failed to sway the votes necessary when Richie called the question.
An emotional Helms thanks the people of Highlands County for allowing him to serve immediately after the vote.
Helms Firing (by: Concerned in LP - 7/8/2012)
I am extremely saddened that Rick Helms career ended this way. All Highlands County residents owe him a debt of gratitude for all he has done. May God Bless him and his family. A lot of negatives are being thown at the current Commissioners for their action. Truth is, I don't think they or Rick are totally at fault. This thing started when the previous Commissioners fired Michael Wright. That's who you should aim your animosity towards. Mr. Wright was settting things straight within our county government that had gone undealt with for years. Unfortunately, his actions stepped on some pretty "large" toes belonging to the good ole boys. Regardless, Mr. Wright was gone. Then Rick Helms was a good employee placed in a bad situation. The Commission wanted an "insider" instead of another "outsider" like Wright. Qualifications beyond being an "insider" be damned. Rick's wonderful skills that he had so ably dedicated to this county were unfortunately not what is required to be County Administrator. However, he fit THE "qualification" that was needed. Was he wrong to take the job. What would you have done? I know he was getting much support and also much pressure from those involved. Personally, I don't blame him one bit. It is also hard for me to blame the current commission for trying to correct a terrible action taken by Maxcy, Stokes and Bates. I was always taught not to get the consequence confused with the root cause of an issue. Those three were the "roots" stepped on by the "large toes". Cast your blame in their direction. That's where it started. They were the directors and producers of this drama. Helms, Stewart, Handley and Richie are merely playing out the roles they were cast in.
Let's try this again... (by: an interested party - 7/5/2012)
This is not a question of who was hired, terminated, and/or re-hired. The question is: What is the future of Highlands County and who can best serve in the capacity of true leadership. Highlands County is starving for leadership but unfortunately, our Commission has their own agenda - on an individual level. What always starts out as ...."for the good of the people...", turns into "what's good for me and how can I best benefit from this situation?"
commission's choices (by: Anthony - 7/5/2012)
You are all surprised? We have a handicap sidewalk six lanes from the business that paid and require it for lake Jackson and you are surprised?
Helms (by: Jer - 7/4/2012)
A man with class. Barbie Stewart couldn't rise to the level of integrity that Rich has. The new Commission should fire, immediately any person chosen by Barbie, Richie in November. Handley should should not be votede in because there is to much neputism involved with him.
HELMS (by: Joe Eck - 7/4/2012)
After reading several of the listing I would like to clear up a few things.(1.) Barbie is not running she is retiring so she says.When she took office and Carl Cool was going to retire I went to her and ask her about putting Ricky in that place.Her answer to me was he is not the person for that job.Not only NO she said,but NO WAY is he getting it. (2) Michel Wright was hired and I ASK Ricky to go for that spot myself and he told me that he was not intersted and that he had plans to retire.Well push came to shove and the PREVIOUS BOARD FIRE WRIGHT. I went back to Ricky and ask him to apply for it and the Board excepted him. In the first year THE BOARD WAS VERY HAPPY WITH THE WAY THINGS WENT THEN BARBIE GOT HER HAIR IN A UPROAR AND GOT RICHIE AND GOV. SCOTT APPOINTEE HANDLEY TO GO AFTER RICKY.I can not say for sure but the way it look to me and I think a lot of others this was all set up before the meeting took place. I sure wish that I could get proof that this was arranged out side the SUN SHINE LAW.The last thing I will say is PEOPLE REMEMBER THIS AT THE POLES. DON THANKS FOR YOUR GREAT EFFORT ON RICKY PART
SUGGESTION TO NEWSSUN/HARBORPOINT (by: Zuckerberg - 7/4/2012)
How about adding a like and dislike button to all comments?
(by: nimpo - 7/4/2012)
Mike wright welcome bback. Make sure you get at least 160.
associations (by: jumbo - 7/4/2012)
His wife Beth has worked for Ted Best for well over two decades. Some of the others who spoke are related.
Helms Firing (by: Unhappy with Commissioner - 7/3/2012)
It is very obvious from what I have read, that the 3 commissioner DO NOT have the best interest of the County in their actions. The County is going to pay $50,000.00 (est) and get noting for it. Yet if Mr. Helms stayed on until the end of his term, we could get some production for his salary. Now we have to spend an unknown amount to search and recruit another Administrator and who knows we could do a whole lot worse.
(by: Shaking my head.... - 7/3/2012)
It's difficult to believe that someone serving this county for 38 years could be treated so poorly, but it appears to have been done. I do not know Mr. Helms personally, but I do believe this is just plain wrong. Where were all the commissioners 38 years ago when Mr. Helms began his career making copies in the basement....I daresay some probably didn't even live here then. How sad.
Helms Firing (by: R Duprey - 7/3/2012)
It seems that the county commission is a dysfunctional one. Nobody seems to be fit for the position of County Administrator, as evidenced by the commission's actions during the past several years. Now they have to go through the process of finding a replacement. I pity the person who takes over the position.
Rick Helms (by: Just saying..... - 7/3/2012)
Shame on you, County Commissioners! Stewart must have someone in mind to replace him. Had to make sure Rick was gone before she gets voted out in November. Again I say....SHAME ON YOU!
Helms Termination (by: Gregory Kingery - 7/3/2012)
It is very sad what took place at today's BOCC meeting. What I want to know is, what the rumor is that may be behind termination. I will give this scenario.................Susie Bishop is running for Supervisor of Elections; she also happens to be the sister of Commissioner Ron Handley. Former County Administrator Michael Wright's wife is purported to be involved with Ms Bishop's campaign(starting to get the picture?) If this IS the case, then these 3 Commissioners, Stewart, Richie, and Gov. Scott appointed Handley, have dealt this county a horrific and scandalous blow. Mr Wright was not good for this county then and he is certainly not what we need now. There are many questions I believe should be asked of the candidates for Commission and Election Supervisor. The motives of 3 County Commissioners definitely should be made clear as to why they chose to throw away the career of a 38 year veteran of service to this community; whatever the motives turn out to be, right or wrong, you poorly served this community by serious unprofessional practices, and, not to mention silencing the public, hiding behind the advice of the County Attorney. It truly is a sad day for the "transparent" County Commission we were promised after Mr. Wright's dismissal and an election where 3 new Commissioners were elected. Mr Handley, when you are elected by the constituents of this county, then sir, do you have a right to speak for all of us, don't ever forget Commissioner Elwell was given a mandate by the people of Highlands County and Commissioner Harris was chosen as well, you sir, have yet to prove yourself!
(by: Rusty Shackleford - 7/3/2012)
So what's plan b? They do have a plan b right? Not like the White Star Line's plan b for the Titanic. Where are the lifeboats? Congratulations to Mr. Helms for showing some class even after the decision.
Doing their jobs (by: Sam Schultz - 7/3/2012)
This reminds me of Avon Park. In the end they ended up with someone with a backbone. Mr Helms is a nice guy, but did not have the strength to get rid of the dead weight. Too many friends in management. You can't serve for 38 years without making long lasting friendships and then fire those buddies.
(by: tristan heiss - 7/3/2012)
everyone of the highlands county commisioners should be fired. especially barbara stewart. when you fire someone for doing a great job, there's really something wrong with management. personal issues might have gotten involved, especially involving Barbara Stewart. If anyone should have been fired it should have been her. I've never seen Rick Helms walk out of a meeting with the citizens. Her narcistic attitude almost rivals Obama's I believe she's done more damage than anyone on that commission. If Rick Helms ever runs against her and I hope he does, I will quit my day job just to campaign for Mr. Helms to replace Barbara Stewart. Because at least then we will have a competent person in her position. Kudos to Don Elwell for his guts to stand up against these fools on behalf of Rick Helms. And shame on you Highlands County Commissioners, for acting like children. You can bet I would vote for Fidel Castro before I voted for one of you again. You stink.
Helms (by: Linda Swenson - 7/3/2012)
another decision because "knowing what is best for us " is the form of goverment we are enduring in these days even at local level. The mentality can only work if there is minor objections by main street. Each take action and vote them out of office.The most power lies with us - use that power..
HCC Stinks (by: Beerbelly - 7/3/2012)
Helms (by: TL - 7/3/2012)
WOW. All I can say Highlands County is to be sure & voice your opinion with your vote during the upcoming county commision election.
HELMS (by: Small FL politics? - 7/3/2012)
Barbie Stewart, once again, got her way! Why is she so jealous of Rick? How many more years has he been with the county/city than Stewart? Who has more interest in the development and well being of the area? Seems to me it would be someone who was born and raised in the same county "HE SERVES"! KARMA is not fun.
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