MANATEE -- The Manatee County Commission voted 5-2 Tuesday in favor of a contract that would delay the retirement of County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.
Voting in favor were commissioners Larry Bustle, John Chappie, Carol Whitmore, Betsy Benac and Vanessa Baugh. Voting against were Commissioners Robin DiSabatino and Michael Gallen.
Discussion about the contract continued for almost two hours, with a dozen speakers addressing the commission at County Administrative Center.
Two former county commissioners, Pat Glass and Ron Getman, argued in favor of retaining Hunzeker.
The contract provides Hunzeker with a pay raise from $169,124.80 to $203,845 annually, about $34,720.20 more a year. In return, he will forfeit a $337,411.83 lump sum payout for which he is eligible under terms of the state Deferred Retirement Option Program.
Under the proposal, Hunzeker, 65, would delay his retirement five years, through Jan. 29, 2018.
"I think it would be foolish not to accept this offer," said Glass. "He's got to be a person who's in love with the job."
Another fan of Hunzeker's was Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston.
"Ed Hunzeker has exceeded all our expectations," said Poston. Hunzeker has demonstrated he cares about municipalities, Poston added, saying that "this is an opportunity we'll be really sorry if we don't take advantage of."
Former Democratic county commission candidate Corie Holmes objected to the plan, but still acknowledged that Hunzeker had done "a great job."
"The problem is, we must progress," Holmes told the board.
He considered the con
tract too expensive because the county had to "make up" money that Hunzeker would forfeit if he continued working past his original retirement date as a DROP participant.
"Doing the same old does not do us better," Holmes said.
County Commissioner Michael Gallen, who opposed retaining Hunzeker, said of the contract, "There's a lot in here I just can't agree with." He argued its generous financial terms, when compared with contracts of two recently-hired top managers, would set a bad precedent.
The board also had not yet searched the applicant pool to see who might be available to fill the position, Gallen noted.
County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle, who negotiated the employment contract with Hunzeker, had the last word.
"I observe everybody up here is saying Ed Hunzeker is doing a great job," Bustle said. "It is a tough decision when you say someone is doing a great job, and don't want to keep them on."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.