With a little over three months to go before County Administrator John Gallagher's scheduled retirement, county commissioners this week invited four executive search firms to compete for the chance to recruit his successor.
Each firm will interview with commissioners Tuesday afternoon. The winner will be expected to begin the recruitment immediately so commissioners can make a selection in April.
The Waters Consulting Group, based in Dallas, received the highest score based on its bid package.
"I was impressed that they had done some research about Pasco County," Chairman Ted Schrader said.
The firm assisted Pinellas County with its county manager search, and the Pasco bid emphasized the team's familiarity with the area. "We are aware of Pasco's natural beauty along the coast, history, strategic location along the coast and in the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater SMSA and tradition of strong strategic planning and prudent financial management," according to the bid.
Commissioners were willing to overlook some typographical errors in the bid by Colin Baenziger & Associates, which is based in Wellington and specializes in Florida placements.
"In fact, we have been selected to perform 78 of the last 107 City and County Manager searches where a Florida local government has used a recruiting firm," according to the proposal. Baenziger said those city and county manager searches ended in successful placements.
Commissioner Jack Mariano ranked them first, even though his name was misspelled twice in the bid.
Schrader and Commissioner Kathryn Starkey also were impressed with Bob Murray & Associates, which is based in California and has an office in Tallahassee. Schrader liked Murray's offer to meet with business leaders and other key stakeholders before crafting the recruitment brochure.
"We can also meet with other key staff or community members to gather input," Murray wrote. "We want to learn about the values and culture of the organization, as well as to understand the current issues, challenges and opportunities that face Pasco County."
Atlanta-based Mercer Group would call on vice president W.D. Higginbotham Jr. to lead the search. Higginbotham spent 23 years as a city manager in Florida and maintains an office in Seminole.
"He knows and understands the local needs of the BCC in addition to a complete understanding of the Florida Sunshine laws," Mercer wrote.
The Mercer Group, which recruited the county administrator for Sarasota County, also quoted the lowest price, $18,250. The other three firms quoted prices between $21,500 and $24,000.