MANATEE -- Bill Hutchison's last day as the interim director of Manatee County Animal Services will be Sept. 30.
In a memo to the county commission dated Monday, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said "next Thursday marks the beginning of a new chapter at Manatee County Animal Services."
"After bringing countless improvements to MCAS over the past 13 months, Bill is returning to retirement," Hunzeker said in the memo.
Hutchison took the helm of the Animal Services division last August from former chief Kris Weiskopf. Hutchison reported directly to Hunzeker rather than to the Public Safety Department as the Animal Services division chief previously had.
"Manatee County is a dream place to work if you want to make a difference,"
Hutchison said Tuesday. "The long list of lifelong friends I have made is my greatest take away and give. It has been my pleasure and my honor to have worked for Mr. Hunzeker -- the best mentor I ever had."
Hutchison said he is ready to go but regrets some things did not get done.
"I know others to follow will make it happen because I know the caliber of the people that will be carrying on toward a sustainable No-Kill community," Hutchison said. "I can only hope that it is better now as I leave it than when I found it, but that is for others to judge. I have had a load of fun mixed with a modicum of heartbreak over the past 13 months."
On Oct. 1, the Animal Services division will return to the public safety department as director Bob Smith will "take a direct role in hiring a new Animal Services chief in coming weeks," the memo states.
Hunzeker said he has had discussions with Smith about the "importance of MCAS and our community commitment to the No Kill movement."
"Bob has already proven himself to be a strong leader in our organization and he understands the high profile nature of Animal Services," Hunzeker said in the memo. "I believe he is well prepared to resume oversight for Animal Services and to hire a new chief who will continue to lead the goals of being a No Kill community."
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said she is going to request that the commission not endorse Hunzeker's recommendation to put the division back under public safety at this time.
"I've been there when the department didn't report directly to Ed," Whitmore said. "The problems we saw before is a result of that. I don't want to set up the public safety director to fail. ...We are not there yet on anything. I don't think it's time to make that big of a change."
When Hutchison, the county's former public safety director and IT director, agreed to lead the division, Hunzeker said Hutchison agreed to a six-month transition period. Hutchison resigned his post-retirement position as director of the Humane Society of Lakewood Ranch to take the job at Animal Services.
"Over time, Bill realized that six months would not be long enough to properly oversee the transition and he graciously agreed to stay on with us as a number of pressing issues have been resolved," Hunzeker said in the memo.
Whitmore said she appreciates Hutchison for staying for a year.
"He's gotten us many new alliances with new rescues, volunteers," Whitmore said. "He has been a manager when Animal Services needed a manager."
In the memo, Hunzeker outlines a number of the accomplishments Hutchison achieved in his tenure, including consistently having a live release rate average of 93 percent each month, improvement of the level of medical care and care supplies for the animals at the shelter and creating partnerships with local volunteers and others in the community. Hunzeker also said in the memo that one of Hutchison's final tasks was to reconvene the Animal Services Advisory Board, which was pulled from Tuesday's commission agenda, and Hunzeker said the county will readvertise the vacancies later this week.
"Bill's leadership, creativity and ability cultivate unique ideas like Downtown Meowtown will be missed," Hunzeker said in the memo. "We are well beyond Bill's original six-month commitment. I hope you will agree that he has more than held up his end of our agreement, and he has helped map a course for continued excellence and success as the community's leader in the No Kill movement."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.