On Friday, Jack Brown wrapped up his first week as Escambia County Administrator.
Brown comes to Escambia from the Administrator’s job in Taylor County. His contract is just for one year, as has been the recent custom, at a $150,000 annual salary plus benefits.
To recap: Randy Oliver was fired in late 2012 after a year on the job. Former administrator George Touart was re-hired on an interim basis as a search began for a permanent replacement. Larry Newsome took over when Touart – who was fighting cancer -- went on sick leave last December. He passed away in January. Brown says he followed the events closely as chairman of the Florida Association of County Managers. He was asked if he had any concerns when applying.
“Not really,” he said. “Every county has issues, and there’s a lot of turmoil in the recent past, but I love a challenge. I like to try to go into an organization, making positive changes and working with those on board.”
Jack Brown comes in facing a number of issues generated by two out-of-the ordinary events: recovery from April’s flooding, and the explosion at the county jail’s booking and detention facility. He says he didn’t just come in cold.
“After my last day which was the 13th of May in Taylor County, I came over here and listened to some of the discussion,” said Brown. “I’m familiar with what’s going on, and the staff is working hard along with some consultants to lay out several options.”
Those options include: keeping inmates housed temporarily; building a temporary facility, and a third is to go forward and build a permanent facility. The Pensacola News Journal reports a temporary lockup could cost upwards of $30 million. Brown says the actual price tag for that option has yet to be determined.
The county also should look to build a new booking and detention office away from its current location – translation: higher ground – to not only avoid repeated flooding, but also to better meet the needs of law enforcement and the court system. Flooding and the jail aside, Brown says there are other issues to be tackled.
“Working with other community agencies; recycling is an issue, solid waste is an issue,” Brown said. “We want to have a very transparent organization, and I think they are. We just need to tweak it a little bit here and a little bit there, to make some improvements.”
Perhaps Brown’s biggest early challenge, as he gets settled into the Administrator’s office, is meeting the July 15 deadline to present a fiscal year 2015 budget to the county commission.