A citizens’ advisory committee has whittled down the list of candidates for Escambia County Administrator from 15. The next step is to bring them in for interviews later this month.
Twenty applicants had been submitted by the Dallas-based headhunting firm Waters Consulting. Lead consultant Andrea Sims told the Commission at its Committee of the Whole Meeting Thursday that the list is made up of the five, plus one alternate.
Two candidates are from outside Florida: Albert Penska from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and John Weaver from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. The other three are Floridians: Jack Brown from Perry, Ted Lakey from Graceville, and former Pensacola City Administrator Bill Reynolds.
The alternate is James Smith, Assistant City Administrator in Edmond, Oklahoma. He will be placed on the list if one of the finalists drops out.
Bill Reynolds’ inclusion no doubt has raised some eyebrows. He was fired by Mayor Ashton Hayward in July, after being charged with non-criminal mishandling of public records. Reynolds fought the charge and was cleared in September.
Two who failed to make the cut were Thaddeus Cohen, a former Pensacola Economic Development Director, and Barbara Drummond, who runs the City of Mobile’s Administrative Services. Both are African-American. In all, five blacks had been among the 15 semifinalists. Several were considered qualified, but none were selected. Commission Chairman Lumon May noticed.
“I am a little disappointed that we had qualified applicants, and we worked very hard for diversity and inclusion,” said May. “That’s one of the reasons that we took this process as long as we’ve taken it.”
May, however, joined colleagues in accepting the candidate list provided by the search committee. Current interim Administrator George Touart had been on the initial list, after serving from 2002 to 2007. Last month, the County Commission voted to bar him from consideration.
Touart resigned in 2007 amid questions about his personal business dealings, and was later cleared of all wrongdoing. He was brought back on an interim basis when Randy Oliver was abruptly fired in 2012.
The five finalists will undergo an intensive background check, then be interviewed twice on January 30th. They’ll meet with individual commissioners that morning, then at a public meeting in chambers at one o’clock.
Plans are to have the new administrator on the job sometime next month.