(By Thomas St. Myer, pnj.com)
A potential bombshell slowly defused Wednesday night at the Santa Rosa Island Authority board meeting after board members discussed the future of executive director Buck Lee and his potential successor for about 30 minutes.
Chairwoman Tammy Bohannon caught the rest of the board members off guard when she proposed Lee be paid through May 23, but that he step aside Oct. 9, three months before his planned retirement date of Jan. 15. She cited the urgency to transition to a new director with the county assuming control of the Public Safety and Public Works departments Oct. 1 as reason for him to move up his last day as executive director.
Her proposal came after Lee read a two sentence statement about his retirement. Lee missed out on the opportunity to announce his retirement last month, leaving the meeting early due to illness.
"I thought I was going to read my two little sentences and leave," Lee said.
Board member Karen Sindel said, "How'd that work out for you?"
"Not very well," said a good-humored Lee, who joked about his refusal to mow grass and the possibility of someday working at Ace Hardware.
Jerry Watson told fellow SRIA board members that he preferred Lee stay through the transition. Dave Pavlock then questioned why the rush to replace Lee. A few of the board members asked Lee if he wished to push up his retirement.
"Let's come back and talk about this in committee, if that's the board's desire. … That won't be today. At the earliest, it'll be 30 days after that," Lee said.
The board agreed, assigning the proposal to its administrative committee.
Board members spoke for nearly 15 of the 30 minutes about a potential successor for Lee. Pavlock reiterated his preference the board promote from within. Sindel followed by a few other board members tabbed Paolo Ghio, director of developmental services, to be interim director.
That prompted Robbie Schrock, director of administration, to announce the three Island Authority department directors — her, Ghio and Dottie Ford — formulated a plan for board members to consider at a later date.
Schrock said they already spoke to four board members about their plan to replace Lee, with Sindel and Janice Gilley as the exceptions.
Pavlock complimented Ghio as a director, but he suggested Schrock succeed Lee.
"I do appreciate that. We do have a plan A and plan B on just what our personal ideas are," Schrock said to the board. "We are all three on the same page, and we have a great thing going on the island."
Schrock encouraged the board to let the directors speak to each of the board members before they decide on a successor.
Lee cited the uncertain future of the Island Authority for why he opted to retire two to three years earlier than he initially planned.
Bohannon hinted that the Island Authority will last at least through the year. County commissioners reportedly authorized the county administrator and attorney to discuss with the Island Authority board about a joint request to change the Special Act in time for the next legislative session, but Bohannon said, "I've been told that's completely off the table."
The Florida legislature created the Island Authority by Special Act in 1947 and is the only entity that possesses the power to disband the SRIA.
The discussions about Lee and his potential successor perhaps overshadowed a tribute to Bob West, the public safety director who is retiring effective Sept. 30. Bohannon presented West a plaque after spending about two minutes rattling off his impressive accomplishments in 12 years as director.
"The reality is it's not me," West said. "There are so many cogs on this great big wheel that have turned things around, and I'm just really proud to be one cog on this wheel."For a link to the original article, click here.