Escambia County

Evaluations give an inside view of Escambia County government

October 16, 2012

When they completed the County Administrator Evaluation forms, I know it wasn’t the intent of the Escambia County Commission to give us a peek into how they function, but that is exactly what they have done.

Board chairman Wilson Robertson says he has not knowledge of how County Administrator Randy Oliver supervises department heads. Vice chairman Gene Valentino says department heads have complained that they feel isolated and have lost respect for Oliver. Kevin White complained that there has been less communication between department heads and commissioners and that he believes that is a directive from Oliver. Grover Robinson praised Oliver for providing a standard and direction. Marie Young simply gave him a 5.

Robertson knows nothing. Valention knows everything. White misses direct line with department head. Robertson and Young think it’s working as it should. Five bosses- four different views.

White, Robinson and Young give Oliver -3, 4 and 5 respectively. Not bad. Robertson only says Oliver has high ethics and knows nothing else. Valentino says Oliver doesn’t inspire others to succeed and doesn’t know if Oliver promotes efficiency. He believes that Oliver has been unethical and insubordinate. Four don’t have a problem in this area, one has a huge problem with leadership.

Execution of Policy:

White, Robinson and Young give Oliver -3, 4 and 5 respectively. Again not bad. Board chair Robertson has no knowledge. Valentino complains that the policies that Oliver promotes are his, not the commissioners.

Community Relations:
Grover Robinson believes Oliver can improve his interaction with citizens. White complains that Oliver hasn’t followed up with citizens at his direction. Valentino says that the feedback that he has received is that Oliver is arrogant and rude. Robertson says employees handle the day to day.

Administrative Duties:
Wilson Robertson doesn’t believe Oliver handles these duties well with the commissioners. White agrees saying that he hasn’t kept the board properly informed. Valentino says the commissioners are only informed after the fact. Robinson disagrees saying that Oliver is good in this area.

Robertson, White and Valentino want to be more informed in how Oliver is handling the administration. Grover and Marie are fine.

Economic Development:

Robinson praises Oliver for understanding this area. Valentino says while Oliver understands the shortcomings of existing economic development structure (Chamber?), he wants Oliver to try to transition to a better structure (Remember Gene’s Economic Development Authority?). White believes that there has been a lack of communication with the development community. Wilson just says not enough has been done.

Valentino wants Oliver to push his EDA. White wants more communication with developers and Wilson simply wants more.

Intergovernmental Relations:
Wilson gives Oliver a “fairly well.” Grover thinks Oliver can work more on this, but still gives him a 3.5. White says other communities have complained about lack of communication. Valentino says Oliver has no relationship with other communities.

So it’s none, some, could be better, fairly well and excellent—which is it?

County-City Relations:
Valentino writes that Oliver meets with all of them every week—which seems to contradict earlier complaints about lack of communication. Robinson says he does a good job of communicating, but could improve. White gave Oliver a 3 in this area, saying Oliver meets weekly with him, too. Only Robertson was negative with “Not well enough.”

Four appear to believe Oliver meets or exceeds expectations in this area. One does not. Hmmmm.

Grover and Marie give Oliver 5’s. White gives a 3 but says the rewrite of the Long Range Comp Plan hasn’t been handled properly. Valentino concedes Oliver is a good strategist but his plan on any given issue precedes that of the commission from a policy point of view. Robertson simply says “No.”

Two 5’s and a Three. One wants more input. The other wants something else, but we don’t know what.

Financial Management
All appear to agree that Oliver does well in this category, even Kevin White gave him a 4.

Outgoing Commissioner Marie Young is happy with Randy Oliver, as is Grover Robertson, who has two more years in his term.

Gene Valentino wants more input in the administration and wants support from the county administrator for his economic development plans. He believes that Oliver has hurt his reputation.

Wilson Robertson still has to win re-election in November. While he is clearly upset with Oliver, Robertson is not going to put much in writing that could hurt him on Nov. 6.

Kevin White, who leaves office next month, has had an epiphany and now believes Oliver hasn’t done his job properly and hasn’t communicated well with the commissioners, department heads, developers and other communities.


The best replacement for Randy Oliver may be a sock monkey.

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  • Billy T October 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Hmmm. I wonder if THIS is what Valentino and White were discussing, somewhat privately, in the parking lot of the Molino Community Center after the grand opening ceremony today.

    The commissioners, especially Valentino and Robertson, routinely like to make comments about doing things “in the sunshine” during their public meetings. Obvious grandstanding, and completely tiresome.

    Well, at least they were standing outside, and the sun was shining down on them.

  • wow October 17, 2012 at 9:18 am

    All is well – county to hold ribbon cutting on new white elephant in Molino. Question is can the county afford to staff it and pay the light bill? You can bet Kevin White will be preening like a peacock for bringing home the bacon just like Robertson at Bauer Road sports complex and Marie at her new Taj Mahal community center. This is our county’s long term plan – build a bunch of buildings. Brilliant.

  • CJ Lewis October 17, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Thanks for the insightful if frightening tour inside the minds of the County Commissioners. Florida Statutes Chapter 125 County Government outlines the powers and duties of both the Board of County Commissioners and the County Administrator. That should be at least a starting point for assessing the performance of each. As a military officer, I completed hundreds of performance evaluations. I considered it one of my most important duties. In my opinion, the 2011 and 2012 evaluations are worse than useless. No employee should ever be ambushed. Most performance failures, real or perceived, can be traced back to leadership failures. Part of the problem may be that the Commissioners do not know their own minds in which case no County Administrator is ever going to succeed even if they are a mind-reader.

    Short of adopting a charter to change the county’s form of government, there should be some ways to adapt the existing form of government mindful that the County Administration Law of 1974 is well-defined. The Board acts as the “legislative and governing body” of the county. Rather than rotating the Commission Chair position around, one Commissioner should be elected its leader for a two year term. I would pick Grover Robinson for the job. The County Administrator would report to the Chairperson solving the problem of Oliver being tugged in five different directions. Assuming the Chairperson does a good job, it would be natural for them to be reelected. The Chairperson would be the entry point into Escambia County government for Constitutional Officers, etc. Right now, no one seems to be in charge and Oliver is unfairly criticized for just doing his job given the limited and conflicting guidance he may be getting.

  • Pave my dirt road October 17, 2012 at 7:09 am

    This is the manifestation of a dysfunctional form of government. Pothole politics at its worst. Isn’t it time for a change or do the citizens like being the butt of jokes across the state and in Mobile and Baldwin counties?

  • joe October 16, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Some confusion with Robertson and Robinson in this article exists.

    There should be ongoing assessments in Oliver’s performance to provide a benchmark for this so called annual evaluation, which seems like a hatchet job.

    Why in the world would outgoing commissioners have any strong opinions on Oliver’s future?

    The commissioners appear petty and stupid with some of their comments.

  • Mark October 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    The same could be said for the county fire chief.

  • hayseeds October 16, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    is it any wonder this county is the laughingstock of Florida and even Alabama? This entire episode is pathetic. One outgoing commissioner can throw county government into chaos? Even worse – he does so because the county will not give him a job??? This is what happens when the compensation for the commissioners is too high. An outgoing commissioner who ran for office because of the salary gets desperate when he is unable to replace the commissioner income. What a sad state of affairs. The current system is clearly broken – in many ways.