Polk to advertise for permanent county manager

Published 10:02 pm Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Polk County is officially searching for a permanent county manager after having an interim since December 2012.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, July 7 and approved advertising for a county manager by a 4-1 vote, with commissioner Ray Gasperson against.
Gasperson and a few residents said the county should wait until after the November election for the new board to hire a county manager.
Gasperson attempted to amend the motion to advertise for a county manager, but commissioner Tom Pack said he wouldn’t accept the amendment to his motion because after a year and eight months the county needs to move forward.
Just prior to the November 2012 election, former Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson received notification that he was selected to be the Command Sergeant Major of the 1st Training Brigade of the United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (A) and was to be mobilized to Fort Dix, N.J. for one to three years.
In December 2012, following new commissioners being sworn into office, county information technologies director Marche Pittman was appointed interim county manager.
Whitson notified the county this year that he would return to his manager position on March 10 and on March 3, the majority of commissioners agreed to accept Whitson’s resignation and approved paying Whitson $178,590, which were the terms of a voluntary separation agreement between the county and Whitson.
During citizen comments on Monday, Dennis Hill said he thinks it would be wise to defer seeking a permanent county manager until the new board is seated. He said there could be financial complications if a county manager is hired now.
“We operated without a permanent county manager for over a year now and I think we can continue to do that with the individual in place for another four months,” Hill said.
Gary Poague said he’s very suspicious for the motivation, mentioning commissioners spending $178,590 to pay off Whitson. Poague said it looks like commissioners have another hidden agenda going on and he hasn’t talked to one citizen in favor of this happening before the election.
Renée McDermott said she agrees commissioners should wait until after the election to hire a permanent manager.
She said the longest serving county manager in recent history was Whitson.
“Instability in local government makes bringing business and industry to an area more difficult,” she said.
McDermott also said she predicts if the majority rushes to hire a county manager before the election they will provide what’s called a “golden parachute,” meaning if their county manager is let go by the next board, it will require taxpayers to pay that person another large sum of money.
“It wasn’t too long ago that a Republican board of commissioners did just that in Polk County,” said McDermott. “You claimed you didn’t like the payout then, so don’t do it now.”
Scott Woodworth said residents talked about losing money before with Whitson and now they are worried about another payout. He said he’d like to see a survey of county employees to see how Pittman works with them, which would give commissioners an idea of what type of manager he’s been. Woodworth also said the county should look local first for a manager and outside the area second because he is sure Polk has someone here.
“I’m for someone whose going to do the job and work with the employees and the people of Polk County and if that works, that’s a good fit,” Woodworth said.
Debbie Arceneaux said Polk is overdue on hiring somebody for county manager. She said if the county loses a sheriff they wouldn’t sit around and wait to appoint another.
“Government hires people,” Arceneaux said. “It’s ridiculous we have to sit here and wait on this.”
Commissioners approved instructing the clerk to advertise in newspapers and websites for 30 days.

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