News-Sun file County Commission Chairman Jack Richie and County Attorney Ross Macbeth will negotiate with June Fisher (above) for her contract to become the county administrator. She has been serving in the post since Rick Helms was fired.
published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Board wants Fisher at helm
By BARRY FOSTER
Special to the News-Sun
SEBRING -- The search for a full time county administrator was over before it started. By a 4-1 vote, Highlands County commissioners Tuesday morning decided to immediately enter into negotiations with Interim County Administrator June Fisher to take the job of on a full-time basis.
Outgoing commissioner Barbara Stewart took the lead in a lobbying effort for Fisher, telling the board "we have a good solid choice in front of us," and opining there was no need to advertise for the post.
In addition to making the motion to enter into negotiations with Fisher, Stewart moved that commission Chair Jack Richie and County Attorney Ross Macbeth act as the negotiating committee.
The commission rebuffed calls by commissioner Don Elwell to hold off and first establish priorities for a new administrator. Elwell said his suggestions were effort to make certain the new administrator would understand the feeling of the commission.
Elwell emphasized that he did not disagree with the choice of Fisher, but did want a more orderly process.
"My concern is that I like Ms. Fisher. In fact, I like her so much that I don't want to turn the egg timer over at the two year mark on her career as we have on the past two administrators," he said.
"I feel that appointing somebody without a strategy session, we may be going down that road again and not really addressing the main problem."
Elwell also pointed back two years prior, when commissioners had to find a replacement for the then-recently deposed Michael Wright.
"They chose to wait until a new commission was seated and let them make that decision," he said. "I would be in favor of letting the commission seated in November to make that decision."
He called the postponement of a decision "a courtesy" to the incoming commission.
"The least we do is to get their input," he said.
However, Stewart, Richie, Ron Handley and Greg Harris were not swayed by the arguments. Stewart called Fisher's situation "totally different," noting that although Fisher's long-term experience in the county dated back to her years at Sebring Senior High School, she also had served in other areas of the state.
Fisher has held positions as manager in Glades, DeSoto and Citrus counties, resigning the top spot in Citrus county in 2008 to come to Highlands County as the community services director.
Stewart lobbied against looking for an outsider, saying that anybody who was hired would need as much as a year or two to "figure out what's what."
Richie showered praise on Fisher, referring to her several times as "magnificent."
"She has handled all challenges and all tasks with great haste, great diligence, with great accuracy and with great love for the county of Highlands," he said.
Richie also said he did not want to insult existing commissioners by saying that they could not make a good, logical decision by instead waiting for a new commission to "make that decision for them."
Commissioner Greg Harris gave a nod to Elwell's concerns but sided with the majority.
"I appreciate everything commissioner Elwell said, but I think maybe we owe a courtesy to June Fisher, too. Maybe it's time we give her a vote of confidence and go ahead and start working on that new contract," Harris said.
Following the vote, Stewart laid out a number of ideas for the contract package, including severance pay.
She then pushed to find out how long Richie planned to take with the negotiations.
"So, when do we expect for you to have this back to us?" she asked the chair.
Richie gave no specific time frame, but said the negotiating sessions would be open to the public and to other commissioners.
Fisher thanked the board for the kind words and told commissioners she was willing to begin negotiations with the county attorney and the chair.
She told the commission she would be looking forward to "continue working with the county."
Whats Real (by: Blindman - 10/11/2012)
Is Ms Stewart running for reelection? Maybe she is just more comfortable with Ms Fisher because she is a female. The Board owes no courtesy when it comes to "business", Mr Harris appears to be going with the flow, knowing Ms Fisher is going to be chosen anyway. Funny how Ms Stewart leaves it up to "the guys" to hammer out the contract with Ms Fisher. Women usually settle for less than men when it comes to pay! Good job Barb, you really do know what your doing. And good luck to one impressive lady... Ms Fisher!
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