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Administrator job listing paints attractive portrait of county even if job may not last long

NEIL JOHNSON, The RiverWalker Staff
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 02:07 PM

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Who wouldn't want to live in the Hernando County described by the company looking for the best candidates to become the new county administrator?

Commissioners hired a company for $20,000 to hunt for applicants. The company's online job posting includes a lyrical and attractive description of Hernando County that the tourist council should attach to their promotional material.

Here's the first paragraph: "Hernando County offers a variety of venues and lifestyles, including theme parks, cultural activities, outdoor recreation, fine dining, and nightclubs. Residence choices range from gated communities, a home with waterfront access, or a 100-acre farm set among rolling hills."

It sounds good, though the plural of theme parks is a little puzzling.

It goes on to say downtown Brooksville has "quaint eateries and antique shops" where you can while away an afternoon and says Hernando County has a "cozy, relaxing feel". And who knew the World Wildlife Fund called the Withlacoochee State Forest one of the " 10 Coolest Places in North America"? That would be the state forest with portions in three counties.

Still, someone seeking the high-pressure job wouldn't want to move to a dumpy, squalid place the Beverly Hillbillies would find backward. Some license is allowed.

The description goes on to give more details, mainly census type information such as half the people are older than 47 and half are younger, 90 percent of the population is white and 5 percent is black, also 86 percent of the people in the county over 25 have a high school diploma.

Compared to the entire state, Hernando is older, whiter but with a slightly higher percentage of people who finished high school.

The job posting also covers the government, major employers and climate for the county and other information. It's a format the company follows for their government job listings.

What it doesn't have is what you'd call an official job description. That apparently has some commissioners wondering if they're getting all they paid for with their $20,000 and thinking maybe that's why fewer than three dozen people wanted the job a week before the application deadline.

But you really don't need the description for qualified candidates. Do you want someone applying for a job that pays at least $10,000 a month who doesn't know what a county administrator does?

The posting does have some fuzzy qualifications such as "strong, energetic, dedicated, proactive, achievement-oriented, and steady leader with strong values."

Managers at Publix also would probably want to see those traits in applicants to bag groceries.

And Hallandale Beach also wants a city manager who is proactive, progressive, strong and energetic, so those things aren't novel on hiring wish lists.

But most government s or private companies probably aren't looking for a person possessing the rest the sentence describing an ideal candidate: "a sense of humor and the skin of an alligator."

That doesn't show up in many of the company's listings for management level government jobs, though for the Polk County, Iowa, administrator job, the listing says: "The administrator will be thick skinned and understand (but not participate in) politics." Alligators likely aren't a common point of reference in Iowa.

Actually, any county administrator or city manager needs a Kevlar hide, though Cape Coral wants a city manager who is a leader, but the quiet and unassuming kind.

There may be a few other things in the listing making candidates hesitate before hitting the send button on their emailed resumes.

In its postings, the company's format includes issues the new person would face.

The first sentence of that portion says: "The most pressing issues for Hernando County are listed here: financial, relationship between elected officials and staff, the media's coverage of political events, succession planning, and property value."

A lack of money is almost universal in the job listings and in today's economy, a given.

Other listings include problems you might expect such as crime, traffic, infrastructure and improving employment that don't top Hernando's list.

Something else may also be a red flag for potential candidates in a field that's highly transitory, volatile and uncertain. The listing says: "Finally, the County has had eight County Administrators since 1990."

That averages two years and nine months each. Even in a field where job changes are commonplace, most candidates would like to hang around long enough to unpack or find all the county's theme parks.

It may be sending a message that commissioners are a little cranky and hard to get along with. Or maybe they meddle too much. It doesn't broadcast the hope for long-term employment when commissioners hope the next administrator will last all of five years.

Still, the description makes Hernando sound like a great place to live, even if it's only for 2.75 years.

Neil Johnson is a former columnist, editor and reporter for The Tampa Tribune and a freelance writer in Brooksville.

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