The Escambia Board of County Commissioners voted today to name Jack Brown, Taylor County administrator, its new county administrator. Though the final vote was 5-0, the process to get to that vote was torturous…for Chairman Lumon May, the audience and the news media.
Chairman May opened the discussion talking about the selection process. “The process has taken far too long. I was disappointed at times, but I have remained committed to the process.”
He said that while the process was fair and open he was disappointed in the lack of diversity among the finalists and was uncomfortable with the matrices used in the selections. Prior to the meeting, there had been discussion of throwing out all the candidates. Commissioners Wilson Robertson and Gene Valentino had mentioned it in previous meetings so that Interim County Administrator Larry Newsom could be considered. Commissioner May did appear initially to be in fair of doing that.
The chairman gave the other commissioners three minutes each to offer their views before he would accept any motions.
Commissioner Steven Barry said he supported Jack Brown, but didn’t want his vote to be taken as one against Larry Newsom. “He (Newsom) will remain in senior leadership,” said Barry.
Commissioner Grover Robinson, who also supported Brown, asked that the board voted on those who went through the selection process before any other candidates were considered.
Commissioner Wilson Robertson defended his right to bring up Newsom for the job, pointing out all five commissioners could have nominated anyone for the job at any time. He urged Commissioner May to do so if he felt there was someone from the minority community that he believed should be considered.
Commissioner Gene Valentino defended the sometimes heated discussions between the board members in their public meetings. “I think we do a darn good job up here,” said Valentino. He described their public disagreements as “passionate differences.”
Valentino said he suppported Newsom because “not only do I trust him, but he has the most experience.” He suggested that Brown be made the assistant county administrator and learn the job under Newsom.
When Robinson made his motion to name Brown the new administrator, May pushed to be added to the contract negotiations with County Attorney Alison Rogers. He made it clear that he would note vote for Robinson’s motion unless that was added to it.
At Commissioner Barry’s suggestion, the board made clear some of the parameters of the administrator contract. It would for one-year with a three-month severance clause. That passed by a 3-2 vote with Robertson and Valentino voting in the negative.
When Robinson renewed his motion, Robertson made a substitute motion to throw out all the candidates and tried to convince to May that by doing so he could have more diversity in the new set of finalists. That motion failed 2-3, with May, Barry and Robinson voting in the negative.
Finally the motion for Jack Brown and with Chairman May part of the negotiation team came up for a vote. The board voted unanimously for Brown.