Life After Randy

With Randy Oliver gone, the Escambia County Commission must now decide who will take the reins as County Administrator.

“I really can’t tell you for sure,” said Commission Chairman Wilson Robertson recently.

During the board’s meeting Thursday, commissioners will delve into the issue. As of mid-October, Assistant County Administrator Larry Newsom has been named Acting Administrator. Now what?

Robertson said he’d like to see Newsom take the position.

“Larry is certainly one of them that will be considered,” the chairman said, though he has “heard through the grapevine” that Newsom may not jump at the chance to lead the county. “From what I understand, he likes what he’s doing, and he may be scared a year or two down the road we’d get rid of him.”

Commission Vice Chairman Gene Valentino said he envisions Newsom staying in the ‘Acting’ slot for two to four weeks, then bringing on an interim administrator for three to eight months while the commission conducts a search for a permanent candidate.

“We want to take our time to find a leader,” Valentino said, adding that he was not satisfied with the background check conducted on Oliver.

Valentino—who turned in perhaps the harshest evaluation of Oliver—will become chairman this month. What is he looking for in a new administrator?

“I’m looking for someone who can be trusted and can be collaborative,” he said. “Trust, flexibility, he must be transparent and he must earn the trust and confidence of all commissioners.”

Valentino said he has thus far been contacted by four different people interested in the position of administrator. He declined to name the interested parities.

“All of them are viable candidates at this time,” he said, adding that former county administrator George Touart—a rumor in the running—has not contacted him. “—not on my list, I haven’t received a call from him.”

Robertson acknowledged the speculation about Touart—“right now, it’s a rumor”—but said the former administrator had not contacted him either. The chairman said that John Fogg, the former mayor of Pensacola, has expressed interested to him about the permanent administrator’s position.

“We need time to think about this,” Robertson said. “I’m sure Grover and Marie, who were surprised about this, need time to think about it.”

Commissioner Grover Robinson—who, along with Commissioner Marie Young, were supportive of Oliver—said he would like to see a search begin immediately for a permanent candidate.

“My feeling is, let’s go do it, let’s make it happen, let’s get moving,” he said.

Robinson stressed the importance of putting together a county budget in the spring. The commissioner would like to see someone in place by March to head up that effort.

“If you don’t get an administrator by March,” he said, “you might as well not get one until next October because budget is so important.”

At the time of Oliver’s firing, Robinson expressed concern about letting the administrator go; he didn’t share the concerns of some of the other commissioners about the former administrator’s performance. What will he be looking for in a candidate?

“I would say if you took Randy and cloned him, I would take all of him except—well, I can’t even say this, he was very good at communicating with people,” Robinson said, before considering qualifications, along with the x-factor of the board. “He’s got to balance a lot of things. That assumes you’ve got five commissioners that want to work together for something good for the community and not just their own agenda, and I can’t control that.”

Commissioners will discuss the county’s administrator position during their meeting this week. Thursday morning’s work session begins at 9 a.m. at the county’s downtown governmental complex, with the regular meeting at 5:30 p.m.