BROOKSVILLE - County commissioners Tuesday opted to find their next economic development boss using in-house staff instead of a recruiting firm.
In a 3-2 vote, commissioners asked County Administrator Len Sossamon and his staff to start drawing up job qualifications and return at an upcoming meeting. They believed he is well-qualified to find the right person for the job and save the $20,000 or more it would have cost to hire a headhunter.
Sossamon assured the board he can do a thorough job and reminded members that he's hired an economic development manager earlier in his career. While he's at it, Sossamon said he would like to explore the possibility of hiring a firm to help market Hernando County better than it is being done currently.
Commissioner Diane Rowden made the motion to go in-house and said she has the utmost confidence in Sossamon.
Rowden asked the administrator to draw up some performance measurements for the next economic development manager.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes opposed Rowden's motion because he believed a recruiting company was better equipped to conduct a national search for someone who "can hit the ground running."
The money would be well-worth it, he said.
"It's an investment," he said. "It's not one-time, throwaway money. We're going to get what we pay for. I can't stress enough how important this position is and what it means for Hernando County."
Chairman Dave Russell sided with Dukes and voted for a headhunting firm.
But Rowden was backed by Commissioners Nick Nicholson and Jim Adkins.
Adkins said the county doesn't need to spend money on something that can be done by staff and possibly with input from the business community.
Nicholson said the position needs to be filled quickly and disliked spending an additional couple months waiting to hire a firm.
"I don't want someone from the outside helping us choose the individual, " he said. "We need to keep this in-house."
Business Development Director Mike McHugh, who will step down Sept. 13 after 11 years, told commissioners it was "an honor and privilege to serve."
McHugh said he knows money was tight and it was not always easy but he knew the county supported him in his efforts.
McHugh said he will be the county's "cheerleader" from the sidelines when he steps down.