Officials appoint Coryea as permanent county administrator, citing years of experience

Meet the Manatee County Commissioners

Meet the members of the Manatee County Commission; short bio's and email addresses.
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Meet the members of the Manatee County Commission; short bio's and email addresses.

Commissioners on Tuesday gave Cheri Coryea the final approval to serve as Manatee County’s permanent administrator.

Coryea, who has served in a position of management for more than 30 years, was previously chosen to serve up to one year in an acting position following Ed Hunzeker’s retirement. The board had previously declined giving her permanent role due to her lack of a bachelor’s degree.

The Board of County Commissioners debated that requirement once more after County Attorney Mitchell Palmer presented the ordinance commissioners voted for on April 23. It would allow for an administrator to possess either a bachelor’s degree or “equivalent executive experience, as determined by the board.”

Though commissioners Stephen Jonsson and Misty Servia thought Coryea would be a perfect fit for the position, they felt it would establish negative precedent to “lower the standards” for the county administrator of a rapidly growing community.

Both officials spoke of the importance of a college education when leading the county’s 1,800 staff.

“To me this is a policy decision,” Jonsson said. “A college education is important in this position and it was put in there for a reason. I don’t think we should engineer a job description.”

Cheri Coryea (left) hugs Manatee County staff members moments after she was officially appointed to serve as acting county administrator following Ed Hunzeker’s retirement on Feb. 26. Ryan Callihan rcallihan@bradenton.com

“College degree is a very, very important thing; That’s why only 25 percent of the people have it. It shows you can do a lot of work and you can follow through and you can end, and that’s important. College graduates have exceptional research skills. They learn how to collaborate with others. They learn critical thinking skills.

“I will say we were lucky to find something with all those skills who sits right there,” she added, gesturing toward Coryea.

Their colleagues, however, felt that Coryea’s many years of experience prove that she’s the ideal option.

“I value an education. I worked very hard to get mine, but the reality is that experience counts,” Commissioner Betsy Benac said. “I think we’re all clear that Cheri is the best for this job. I haven’t heard from anyone otherwise.”

It’s an issue that has been discussed repeatedly by commissioners. In an interview with the Bradenton Herald prior to his April retirement, Hunzeker said he didn’t believe Coryea would stand to gain anything she didn’t already know with a college degree.

Hunzeker handpicked Coryea to serve as deputy county administrator in 2012.

Commissioners voted 5-2, with Jonsson and Servia dissenting to tweak the required qualifications for the job. Commissioners then voted unanimously to appoint Coryea as administrator.

The County Attorney’s Office is set to negotiate and bring back Coryea’s official contract at a later date.