Ed Hunzeker could no longer be Manatee County administrator after Jan. 29, 2018, when his current contract expires.
In a 4-3 vote Tuesday, the Manatee County Commission elected to proceed with a national search to find Hunzeker’s successor rather than extending Hunzeker’s contract.
The commissioners voting in favor of a national search were Vanessa Baugh, Robin DiSabatino, Steve Jonsson and Charles Smith.
Voting against a search were commissioners Betsy Benac, Priscilla Whisenant Trace and Carol Whitmore.
Never miss a local story.
“We do have division up on this board,” said Baugh, who placed the agenda item on Tuesday’s agenda. “The division is not all the county administrator’s fault but part of it is.”
Hunzeker, who was first appointed Manatee County administrator in November 2006, most recently had his contract extended in January 2013 when commissioners approved a new five-year contract, which included a $34,720.20 annual pay raise, increasing his salary to $203,845 annually. But in return, Hunzeker forfeited a $337,411.83 payout for which he was eligible under a state retirement program.
With multiple county department directors in the audience as well as members from the business community and former county commissioners, the county commission had an extensive discussion about Hunzeker’s future with the county. Communication issues in the county including the fact that deputy county administrator Karen Windon retired earlier this year before being hired by a temporary employment agency were highlighted during Tuesday’s meeting, which was the first time many commissioners were made aware of the situation.
“I have some real issues with some of the things going on,” Baugh said.
When asked during Tuesday’s meeting whether he would stay past his contract, Hunzeker said he would.
“Would I consider staying on for a period of time? The answer is yes,” he said. “I don’t have to. I don’t need to.”
For Smith, he said “you need a new set of eyes.”
“This is nothing personal at all,” he said.
DiSabatino said “it’s not healthy for us to have the old baggage that we have.”
“We need to search to see what’s out there in the community that can take us to the next level,” she said.
But for Whitmore, who said she talked to about 50 people about the issue over the weekend, she said the individuals think Hunzeker is doing a good job.
“I don’t feel it is time to look for a county administrator at least until ’19 or ’20 until we get through 2018,” she said.
Trace said when she asked Hunzeker on Monday if he wanted to stay, he said yes.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of the story,” she said. “I think we have a gem there. ... This place is well run.”
Former county commissioners as well as members of the business community all spoke in favor of Hunzeker staying during Tuesday’s meeting.
Pointing to the county’s successful half-cent infrastructure sales tax referendum this November, former county Commissioner Larry Bustle said Hunzeker has had many accomplishments and should continue as county administrator.
“Do you really want to bring a new person on board at the time when you’re just now getting to be able to see at end of the forest? We’re just about coming through the end of the tough times,” Bustle said.