MANATEE -- Manatee County Animal Services Interim Division Chief Joel Richmond has applied for the permanent position.
Richmond, who was previously the enforcement supervisor at Animal Services, is one of 76 applicants who applied to be the next leader of the at-times controversial division. When Richmond was appointed the interim division chief after the retirement of Bill Hutchison earlier this fall, the move was criticized by some in the community.
Richmond was involved in a raid at Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary in East Manatee in February 2014, which sparked intense scrutiny and criticism of Animal Services. Most recently, Richmond was involved in the high-profile Padi incident, which received international attention.
Richmond is one of at least two applicants currently employed by Manatee County government. The other applicant is Peyt Dewar, who is currently a code enforcement officer.
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When asked whether current county employees will receive preference in the selection process, Bob Smith, the county's public safety department director, said "there won't be any preference,"adding that the position doesn't just entail running the shelter but also includes aspects such as veterinarian services and an outreach and event component.
"We want to consider all candidates equally based on qualifications and experience," said Smith, whose public safety department oversees Animal Services. "We want to be a level playing field for all the candidates."
While 76 applicants applied by the Nov. 16 application deadline, only 30 candidates passed the initial screening, according to a county document.
"We got a really good response," Smith said. "A pretty diverse group of candidates. Folks with a pretty range of experience. We got a really good turnout geographically. We got applicants from all over the country. ...It was good that we did that nationwide search because we wanted to make sure we reached as many as we could."
By mid-December, the county is hoping to have finalists selected and at which time bring the candidates in for face-to-face interviews, Smith said, adding that they hope to have a candidate selected by the end of the year.
County Administrator Ed Hunzeker will have the final decision on the hire, and it won't go before the county commission for its approval.
"We are planning on doing a series of panel interviews from across county government and from some outside parties to do interviews," Smith said.
Smith said they would like to narrow the candidate pool to between five and seven candidates for the interviews.
"We like to get it down that much," Smith said.
In October, Smith said while someone with animal services and animal rescue background is essential, the biggest focus outside of that is management and leadership.
"We want to focus primarily on management and leadership," he said in October. "It is pretty significant sized staff out here. The staff needs oversight. The staff needs positive influences and morale boosts, if nothing else."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.