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St. Lucie County interviews 5 county administrator finalists, but may reopen job search

NewsSt. Lucie County interviews 5 county administrator finalists, but may reopen job search

ST. LUCIE COUNTY— The County Commission had been expected to hire its next county administrator Tuesday. But after commissioners interviewed five finalists Friday, that may not happen.

Chairwoman Cathy Townsend said she didn’t feel comfortable selecting a candidate from among the finalists. She proposed reopening the search for a few more weeks to see who else applies.

“Indispann River County just had over 50 applicants that applied,” Townsend said.

By comparison, 26 applied for the St. Lucie County administrator job.

“I don’t know if we’ve seen the best,” she added.

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Townsend said she may feel better about picking one of the existing finalists after she asks them follow-up questions prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

For Commissioner Larry Leet, however, either of two finalists would be a good successor to Howard Tipton, who left his position Jan. 13 to become town manager of Longboat Key.

He also voiced concern about waiting too long to hire someone, especially since one of the initial finalists, Darrren Gray, dropped out of the running on Thursday.

Gray, deputy county manager of Osceola County, was offered the county manager job in Seminole County, according to St. Lucie County spokesperson Erick Gill.

During Friday’s three-hour interview process, all of the finalists agreed that growth management, given the county’s increasing population, is a priority. The importance of job creation was another hot topic.

Questions posed by commissioners revolved around economic development, fiscal responsibility, improving relationships with Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie and budget-analysis experience.

Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky, for example, asked some candidates how they would fill the two deputy county administrator positions that will become vspancspannt Wednesdspany.

Some said they would promote Interim deputy administrators George Landry and Mayte Santamaria while at least one other finalist said he likely would likely promote one candidate internally and hire another from the outside.

Here are the highlights of each candidates interview:

Dale “Doc” Dougherty

Dougherty is city manager of Garden City, Michigan.

In response to Commissioner Linda Bartz question about what his view on public-private partnerships, Doughtery said he supports them if its a good fit for the community and makes sense financially.

He cited his involvement in developing a water park near a 1700 acre, man-made lake when he was director of parks and recreation for Macon–Bibb County in Georgia as an example of a successful public-private partnership.

Eric Johnson

Johnson is city manager of Norcross, Georgia.

When asked how he works with county attorneys, Johnson’s highlighted his success working on legal settlements.

When he was county manager of Forsyth County in Georgia, for example, he worked alongside the county attorney to negotiate a contract that required AECOM to pay the county $2.2 million for failing to fix an under-performing wastewater-treatment facility.

George Landry

Landry, one of two local candidates, is St. Lucie County public utilities director.

Finding more ways to create high-paying jobs so residents don’t have to commute outside of their community was a strategy Landry said he would implement as county administrator. Developing workforce housing, so people can afford to live here, also would be at the top of his to-do list, he said.

Derek Scrapchansky

Scrapchansky is town manager of Topsham, Maine.

He said Topsham has challenges similar to St. Lucie County, such as rapid population growth. He emphasized that since entering into his current role in 2020, taxes have not gone up. He also is treasurer, tax collector and economic-development director for Topsham.

George Stokus

Stokus is assistant county administrator of Martin County.

Stokus said the county-owned Treasure Coast International Airport has potential to become an economic driver and eventually could become an enterprise fund.

He also suggested diversifying the county’s targeted industries. Marine technology is one example, he said, especially since the Port of Fort Pierce is a deep-water port.

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