The Board of County Commissioners held interviews Tuesday afternoon for the position of County Administrator. The Board had narrowed the list of candidates to five for interviews but one candidate, Glenn Irby from Umatilla notified the Board he was declining his interview.
Wilianne Daniels, interim administrator was the first one to go before the commissioners. She told the board she was born and raised in Jackson County, graduated from Cottondale High School, Chipola College and Florida State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. She began her work with Jackson County the year she graduated from FSU as a planner and community developer. In 2014 she graduated with her master’s in professional counseling and she became the director of community development. She remained there until she was appointed interim administrator. In reference to a question from Commissioner Spires about her management skills, Daniels said she considered the term leader more so than management in that management was an antiquated term. She said she had been to a lot of leadership training over the last few years and that she had learned that leadership is influence and that she can influence the county staff positively and in a way that the board has envisioned.
Daniels considered the primary attribute of a leader was serving. Pate asked what the people who know Daniels best were asked why she should be hired, what do you think they would say. Daniels said she thought they would say they were comfortable under her leadership and that they were comfortable with her abilities, “I think they believe I am a person of integrity and that I am going to do the right thing even if it’s hard, even if it means going against the grain or going against what I’ve been pressured to do and that I am going to rise above that and do the right thing at the end of the day.”
In reference to Commissioner Hill’s question, Daniels said her greatest strength is to work with all kinds of people, personalities, walks of life, her ability to not pass judgment but to give people a chance to explain themselves, to listen and to affectively communicate. She said her weakness was an area that she could improve on was her contacts with state legislatures and agencies. She said because of her strengths, she didn’t feel that would be a problem.
Commissioner Lockey asked Daniels what she felt like she had learned going from managing a department to managing many departments. Daniels felt like it was her calling, that she felt gifted and meant to do it. She said, “Quite frankly, I think administration is where my talents lie. I have a knack for seeing how a thing is operating not well and say, here is the problem and this is what we need to fix it.”
Commissioner Peacock thanked her for applying for the job and asked her what skills she had to help alleviate Jackson County’s economically challenges. Daniels said that her experience at community development while not economic development per se, “I think my experience with the rules and regulations set forth by this board and previous boards, I have a vast knowledge and a very good grip on what those rules and regulations are but primarily, I see my role as an administrator is that when that developer comes into the county, being able to take that knowledge from community development and apply it and help them through the process.”
The second applicant was long-time Mayor of Malone Gene Wright. Wright told the board that this was his 23rd year in office and that although Malone was a small town, he went to Tallahassee and made connections with the U. S. senators, governors and state senators and representatives, and through his involvement with the Florida League of Cities he has roamed the halls advocating for rural communities and counties. He said he served as an advocate for not only Malone but for Jackson County as well and that his 18 years of experience on the Florida League of Cities has been very beneficial in his job as mayor and in making contacts throughout the state. He said he served on the Regional Council Board and that has allowed him to know what the area counties are facing.
In answering Spires’ question about leadership, Wright said he had an open-door policy and that different scenarios take different roads and that you are only as good as the people that work for you and with you. Wright told the commissioners about bringing Malone out of the dark ages when he took over to include acquiring insurance for his employees.
In reference to Pate’s question about what the people who know him best would say about him being hired for the job, Wright said, “People that know me will tell you this, the only thing I want on my tombstone is that he was fair. Malone has a population of right at 1000 and we are probably 45% African American and 55% Caucasian. You have to treat everybody the same and you have to be fair and I can’t stand discrimination and I want to be fair and loyal.”
Wright said in response to Hill’s question about how he would hold the county commissioners accountable, “I haven’t read the rules and regulations of the county but I’ve read about some of the problems ya’ll were having. This is probably not going to be good for me, but I am not going to fire anybody without just cause. I am not going to put my county in a position to be sued.”
Lockey asked Wright to tell one of the problems the county had that he had eluded to in his opening statement and what he would do to solve that problem. Wright said, “What I mean is that anytime, this is going to sound fickle, but anytime we are in the paper, not Malone but the county and a meeting didn’t go well and it’s public and I don’t like to see that. The EMS and fire thing has been kicked around for a while. I would have sat down and talked to them. What are you dissatisfied with? What is the problem? Is it leadership or what is it?”
Peacock asked Wright what experience and skills he had to deal with an economically disadvantaged county. Wright said, “I could have given you a fancy resume or I could have three or four degrees but that doesn’t necessarily make an administrator. I have been a smaller version of an administrator for 23 years. I have been involved in the West End Project. People call me, I don’t call them. I am on the economic board and I think that is a great move. I think the fees and those adjustments are great.”
Chester Nathan Goodman from Blountstown was the third candidate interviewed the board of county commissioner. Goodman told the board he was a ‘junior’ so he goes by Nathan. I have lived in Blountstown all of his life and had six years as county administrator in Blountstown. He said he left to graduate school and when he finished he wanted to remain in Calhoun County. He has taught and coached at Marianna High School and taught at Cottondale High School. He has worked for the Department of Corrections for the last seven years as the education supervisor.
About his leadership abilities asked by Dr. Spires, Goodman said he had a lot of leadership training, a master’s in public administration plus military experience. He said to describe his leadership skills in one word would be ‘adaptable.’ Every situation is different. There is no one-stop catch all.
Goodman said that anyone who knew him would say about him that he gets the job done in answer to Pate’s question. He said, “Anybody that has worked with me, around me knows that I make things happen. I am going to treat everyone fairly, they’ll tell you that. My word is my bond, your yes be your yes and your no and I live by that.”
Commissioner Hill asked how Goodman would hold people accountable for their jobs and doing it as good as they can. Goodman said, “First of all, I’ve done them all. I started out as emergency management director, I’ve been parks and recreation director. For years I did underground utilities, storm ponds, I’ve built roads, I can read plans, shoot grades so I know what everyone of their jobs should be doing. I’m a macro manager, not a micro manager.”
Commissioner Lockey asked Goodman how long he was an administrator in Calhoun. Goodman said that as the actual administrator’s job two years but six years with the county. Lockey asked if he had caught up with what was going on in Jackson County. Goodman said, “Yes, sir. I’ve been on boards, Library Advisory Board, civic groups, past Lions Club, Rotary Club, I’ve stayed active, Panhandle Industry Council. I do a lot.”
Martin Murphy was the final candidate to be interviewed was Martin Murphy. Martin D. Murphy from New Port Richey graduated from State University of New York at Brockport, NY. His last employment was as City Manager for the City of Oneonta, New York from October 2014 to July 2015. Prior to that position, Murphy was County Administrator for the County of Courtland from May, 2010 until October, 2014. Due to a scheduling conflict, I was not present for Murphy’s interview.
The commissioners will rate the candidates and turn their rating sheets in at the July 24 commission meeting. Human Resource Director Lennetta Greene will tally them during the meeting and return to the commissioners before the end of the board meeting.