Whoever is the choice for the Escambia County Administrator position will have to wait a bit longer before finding out. The County Commission held a series of private and public interviews with the five candidates on Thursday.
Before the interviews, Chairman Lumon May once again criticized the selection process conducted by the Dallas-based head-hunting firm Waters Consulting.
“Quite frankly, I’m very disappointed that we didn’t have any minorities, women, or people of color” May said. “I’ve had several professionals to look, and there were many candidates that were not brought forth who had more years of experience, high levels of education, and more education.”
The commission also entered into a half-hour discussion on severance pay. The last two full-time administrators – Bill McLaughlin and Randy Oliver – were summarily fired. The Commission set severance pay at 90 days.
Then it was on to the interviews. Since the candidates had met Thursday morning with the individual commissioners, the public questioning was relatively brief. First up was Jack Brown from Perry, Florida, who spoke of channeling commissioners’ passion for public service.
The candidates appeared in alphabetical order. Second up was another Floridian, Ted Lakey from Graceville, who’s a former Escambia County road prison manager. He was asked about serving a larger county population.
“I worked for larger agencies before. I worked for the City of Birmingham,’ said Lakey. I worked for you for four and a half years, I’m familiar with your operations. Yes, I’m in a smaller community but it’s similar to what you do here.”
Next up, Albert Peskna of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was quizzed on handling issues that arise from hurricanes – few of which ever hit the Keystone State. He said essentially, he would be an administrator and let the experts handle things.
The fourth candidate had a familiar face. Bill Reynolds is a former Pensacola City Administrator who was fired last year over a public records dispute.
“I have a background of success (and) I certainly have failed in the past. But I’ve also learned from that particular failure,” Reynolds said. “And I’m motivated, frankly, to make some real changes. You know, let’s be honest. I want to redeem myself as well, and move forward.”
The final finalist was John Weaver from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina – which he compared to Pensacola and the Gulf Coast.
After the interviews, Commission Wilson Robertson made a motion to hire Interim Administrator Larry Newsome, rather than any of the five candidates. The motion failed 3-2.
The decision on hiring a new administrator is expected to be made when the Commission holds another special session to begin Friday at high noon.