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Local ties enough for Dade City leaders

Harold Sample's past Pasco government experience and his popularity among others made him the commission's favorite.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 23, 2003

DADE CITY -- City commissioners went with a local candidate Tuesday, unanimously selecting Harold Sample as their top choice to take the city manager postion.

Without debate, the five commissioners one by one agreed Sample, 54, of Dade City was their favorite. Commissioners also agreed unanimously that Wesley Chapel resident James Williams Jr., 54, was their second choice.

After Tuesday's meeting, commissioners cited Sample's longtime connection to Pasco County, his familiarity with local issues, his local contacts, and suggestions from residents as their reasons for selecting him.

If negotiations are successful, Sample would take over the job City Manager Doug Drymon has held since 1998. Drymon announced in January he would be moving on by July 31 in search of a new challenge.

Sample's name has been dropped at commission meetings and around town since early in the search.

"A lot of people in the community came to me and asked me to vote for him," Commissioner Eunice Penix said. "I can think of a dozen at least."

Commissioner Lowell Harris said he, too, was asked by many to hire Sample.

Commissioner Hutch Brock also cited Sample's understanding of Dade City and Pasco County as a factor.

"It's local accountability," Brock said. "The guy is from here. The guy wants to stay here when he's done."

Sample has held a series of high-profile positions in county government, including eight years as then-Sheriff Lee Cannon's top administrator. He has also been a sheriff's deputy, court administrator, county grants planner, director of human services, code enforcement director and assistant county administrator for public works.

He has also served in community organizations, including the Pasco County Fair Association and Downtown Dade City Main Street.

Mayor Scott Black said Sample will bring the respect of the community and the respect of city employees to the job.

Sample said he looked forward to taking the reins.

"I'm flattered," he said Tuesday night. "I really am; both by the commission's actions and the support I've received from the citizens of the community that encouraged me to put my name in when it first came up. I think I've demonstrated commitment to the community regardless of whether I was chosen."

Still ahead, Black and City Clerk Jim Class will have to negotiate a salary and starting date with Sample. If they cannot, Williams would be the second choice.

Commissioner Bill Dennis said he hoped Sample would understand that the city is well into its budget year and would have a difficult time coming up with more than Drymon's salary of just under $58,000 for the remainder of the year. He said he expects the city to negotiate a salary of about $70,000 for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Brock, too, suggested the city look to negotiate a salary of within $3,000 of $72,000, based on what managers in other cities are paid.

Sample said he is ready to move ahead.

"I look forward to the negotiating process and being able to assist in trying to meet some of the needs of the city," he said.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners selected Karla Owens, the former attorney for the Pasco County government, and Zephyrhills resident Kenneth Compton as the top candidates to replace Bill Brewton as city attorney.

Brewton is leaving the position in June but will remain a private attorney.

Owens was a candidate for the city manager job as well.

Compton, who practices in Tavares and has served as attorney for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, is married to Zephyrhills City Council member Cathi Compton.

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