In a bloody airing of internal communication problems, cavalier attitudes, and potential conflicts of interests, the Board of Manatee County Commissioners voted 4 to 3 to implement a nationwide search for a new county administrator. What a colossal mistake!
All commissioners agreed Mr. Ed Hunzeker had done an admirable job of getting through some very tough times. Like the second Great Depression, budget shortfalls, — 300 employee layoffs, and the half-cent sales tax initiative.
Several stated Mr. Hunzeker had professed a desire to retire at contracts end. Despite his statement to the contrary before the Board of County Commissioners, business leaders and three former commissioners stood in support of him.
Clearly, this vendetta reeked of a lack of communication and mutual respect. Not capability. What more does a county administrator have to do? It could have been a mid-course correction with learning by all making the county stronger. Instead, all has been written off to start anew.
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Former commissioner Larry Bustle urged commissioners to look at the issues in a workshop. Sage advice not followed. Now a small problem has become a conundrum — rational consideration giving way to emotion without any definition of problems faced, facts and resolution alternatives. Enough to make not only the transition difficult, but the search itself.
Given this vote of no confidence, how will Board of County Commissioners staunch mass defections of staff and loss of morale by not even bothering to look internally first? The business community is quite concerned.
In chairing the new search, Commissioner Betsy Benac puts a brave face on it despite trying to avoid this fiasco with her vote and that of Commissioners Carol Whitmore and Priscilla Whisenant Trace.
I am reminded of the NFL San Fransisco 49er’s amazing championship run during Jim Harbaugh’s coaching tenure until disagreements with management arose. Look at the 49ers now. Pray Manatee County doesn’t see the same fate.