Home News County administrator exodus: Why are the region’s top policy shapers leaving their jobs?

County administrator exodus: Why are the region’s top policy shapers leaving their jobs?

County administrator exodus: Why are the region’s top policy shapers leaving their jobs?

All Treasure Coast county administrators have either retired or taken a new job this past year.

Over the past year, St. Lucie County Administrator Howard Tipton frequently found himself working upwards of 50 hours per week, juggling budget crises, hurricane- preparedness plans and news conferences amid a public-health crisis.

Even when he got home at the end of the day, work remained on his mind.

“I’ll be home for a good hour and my wife will say, ‘Are you home yet?'” Tipton said. “Physically I’m there, but mentally or emotionally, I’m not.”

And Tipton, who handed in his resignation Sept. 12, is not the only Treasure Coast county administrator who’s felt this way. 

Indian River County Administrator Jason Brown and former Martin County Administrator Taryn Kryzda also cited stress, long hours and pressure-riddled careers as factors in their decisions — like Tipton’s — to leave their job for a less-demanding position or to retire.

All three administrators announced their decisions in the past 11 months. All will have left by mid-January.

The grespant resignspantion

It’s a Treasure Coast trend that comes on the heels of the Grespant Resignspantion, which has swept across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting both the public and private sectors.   

Indian River County: Jspanson Brown stepping down for Clerk of Court finspannce job

St. Lucie County:Lespanving for Longbospant Key wspans one of Howspanrd Tipton’s ‘hspanrdest decisions’

Martin County: Tspanryn Kryzdspan, 64, to retire spans longest-serving spandministrspantor

The year started off with Kryzda, 65, announcing her retirement, ending her 11-year tenure as administrator and 35 years as a Martin County employee. The Treasure Coast’s longest-serving county administrator, she was succeeded in June by her deputy, Don Donaldson.

About three months later, Tipton, 64, accepted a job as town manager in Longboat Key, an 11-mile barrier island in Sarasota and Manatee counties. 

Howard Tipton

And just in October, Brown, 48, announced he would step down to take a senior accountant job with the Indian River County Clerk of Court — citing stress as a leading factor behind his decision. The job, he revealed, was beginning to impact his health and time with his family.

County Administrator Jason Brown gives an update during a press conference held at the Indian River County Emergency Operations Center in Vero Beach on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.

The departure of these top policy shapers raises a crucial question: How hard is it to be a county administrator on the Treasure Coast, where the job requires overseeing budgets upwards of $700 million? 

“This job is a challenge,” Tipton said. “But it is one of the most life-affirming challenges a person can have in terms of working with community leaders, working with a great team, dealing with complex issues and trying to make a difference.” 

Stress on the job 

Kryzda, Tipton and Donaldson all said the job requires a commitment of 50-60 hours per week. 

Being a county administrator, they agree, can be a stressful career, but that stress manifests itself differently for each of them.

Turning off the phone at night in order to disconnect, for example, is usually unrealistic, Donaldson said.

Pressure often was inherent in what Tipton felt was a performance review every time he went before the County Commission, he said.

Another challenge was that 11 of his 15 directors left in the past 2½ years, he said.

“That’s a great loss of institutional knowledge,” he said. “But that also means we get to bring in new talent or promote from within.”

For Kryzda, though, stress didn’t come from the administrative job itself. Rather, it was the invasion of privacy that accompanied it. 

Enduring unkind behavior or comments from residents created “a weird dynamic where you really have to be cautious of what you say and how you say it,” said Kryzda, who retired June 30.

For Brown, who steps down Dec. 31, the responsibility he felt to the community weighed on him heavily, he said. 

“There’s a large responsibility to the public there when you’re dealing with taxpayer dollars and you’re doing things that can impact the community,” Brown said. 

Impact of COVID-19

On top of managing more than 50 divisions within the county, according to Brown, county administrators also have been dealing with an ongoing public-health crisis for more than two years. 

“I would say that COVID-19, and that whole experience, definitely shortened my career,” said Tipton, who leaves St. Lucie County Jan. 12.

Administrators were not only running cities and counties during the pandemic but also creating dozens of programs, such as rental assistance, that never had been administered before, explained Vince Long, Leon County administrator and former president of the Florida Association of County Managers.

“The pedal was down on the accelerator for that chunk of time pretty heavily,” Kryzda said. 

The average tenure of a county administrator or city manager is three to seven years, Long said, but high turnover has persisted in this profession even before COVID-19. 

 “There’s an inherent difficulty sometimes in maintaining that effective council/manager relationship,” said Long, who teaches effective council/manager relationships at Florida State University. “And when you have turnover in that job, it certainly impacts its region.”

An individual needs to be up to the challenge in order to be a county administrator, Long said.

Rewarding aspects

Brown, Kryzda and Tipton agreed that while the job has its burdens, it’s also very rewarding. 

“I feel blessed to be able to work in public service and really have an impact on the community,” Brown said. “I think that’s a tremendous benefit, and a really rewarding part of the job is that you can look at something and say, ‘I had some small part in making that happen.'”  

Similarly, Donaldson added, it’s satisfying to see projects come to fruition. 

“I sort of live vicariously through that,” he said. 

Looking back, Tipton said, negotiating with the New York Mets and overseeing the $25 million purchase of the Port of Fort Pierce were among those rewarding moments.

“One of the best things you can do is help shape the future of a community,” Tipton said. “For me, that’s the most satisfying part of it all.” 

Looking ahead 

While the Martin County Commission promoted Donaldson to fill Kryzda’s shoes, Indian River and St. Lucie counties are still in the process of finding successors for Brown and Tipton, respectively.

Each has allocated $35,000 for a national search. 

“I’ve been fortunate to get to work for really great elected officials,” Brown said. “I’d say it’s more of the responsibility to perform well and give the taxpayers the product that they deserve and that they’re paying for on a daily basis.”


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