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Radacky's choice will be his legacy

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By JEFF WEBB, Hernando Times Editor of Editorials

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 15, 2002

On Tuesday, Hernando County administrator Richard Radacky is expected to announce who he has chosen to be his second-in-command. It's an important decision; this person will be the deputy administrator. When Radacky is not around, the deputy assumes his responsibilities and authority, and often is tasked with implementing the Board of County Commissioners policies.

This is more than a routine appointment because Radacky, if he sticks to the plans he announced when he took the administrator's job last spring, will retire in about 18 months. That means the person selected as the deputy administrator will have an edge on the competition when the time comes to replace Radacky.

That doesn't mean the deputy will be a shoo-in, and Radacky and the commissioners should be very careful to not mislead the successful applicant into assuming that eventuality. But it is fair to say the job will be his to lose, providing he's performed well as the deputy.

About 150 people applied, and Radacky has narrowed that list to four. All are men. Two are from out of state; two are from Florida. One is from Hernando County: Development Services director Grant Tolbert, a 12-year employee.

It will be interesting to see whether Radacky is inclined to give Tolbert any special consideration because of his tenure with the county. Comments Radacky made in May would indicate that's a definite possibility.

"I'm going to spend a considerable amount of time selecting the right person. I would like to have that person be on staff (currently)," Radacky said. "I'd have to get someone who really knocked my socks off, compared to someone on staff."

But Radacky's enthusiasm for home-grown talent may have faded over the summer. That's probably because he had some different folks in mind when he said it.

One was Stephanie Burkhardt, the county's Assistant Utilities Director. She later became ineligible, because the commission decided that the deputy administrator must live in Hernando County, and Burkhardt would not move from her home in Hillsborough County.

Another was Frank McDowell III, the county's Code Enforcement Office Director. But it turns out McDowell does not meet the minimum educational requirements.

That left Tolbert as the only other staffer in the running, and now that he's made it to the final cut, his local experience may not count for much because he and Radacky have had some differences. Notably, they were in different camps regarding former county administrator Paul McIntosh. Radacky was part of McIntosh's clique. Tolbert, to his credit it turns out, was not.

Tolbert shouldn't be given too much extra credit just because he's a county employee. By the same token, Tolbert's familiarity with the county should not be held against him. His experience here is an attribute, at least in terms of his knowledge of county government's history and personnel. It's as much of a marketable commodity as some of the other applicants' military service, or management and technical experience.

In his own words from last May, the deputy administrator will be someone with "a can-do attitude, a person who can work well with department heads and the board." We'll find out Tuesday if he's on the way, or already here.

Choosing the best person for the job, and perhaps someone who can make a smooth transition into the top job when he leaves, will be one of Radacky's most visible legacies. We'll see how he balances his words with his actions.

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