The preliminary vote is over, and the Board of County Commissioners have chosen their short list of eight from a pool of 48 candidates for county administrator.
The county administrator works closely with county staff to help balance the budget, "standardize essential tasks, organize the workforce for maximum productivity, and improve efficiency," according to the county's website. The annual salary of a county administrator ranges from $84,312 to $144,058. Interim County Administrator Gerry Demers earns $105,545 annually. When former administrator Greg Kisela left, he was making $133,825.
Ted O. Lakey was the top contender with five votes, while Cory Godwin, Steve Howard, and Larry Jones tied for second with four votes each. Demers had three, while George Barwick, Lyndon Bonner, and Robert Halfhill each took two votes.
After the short list was created, the eight contenders became seven when Howard removed his application from consideration.
Each candidate will be interviewed for the position, and a vote will determine who will take the permanent post. The interviews will be held the week of Jan. 14 with commissioners intending to make their selection at the Jan. 22 meeting.
Ted O. Lakey
Lakey's resume boasts more than 27 years in "progressive managerial experience in local and municipal government." The applicant also has a Master of Arts Degree in public administration from the University of West Florida; his undergraduate degree, earned in 1978, is from the University of Alabama with a major in communications and a minor in management and public works. Lakey has been employed since 2003 as the administrator of Jackson County, at the county seat in Marianna. In that position, he has worked with the economic development council to bring in five major companies and nearly 600 new jobs. Notably, he created a Parks and Recreation department, worked to obtain a $10 million low-interest loan for road projects, and negotiated an increase in landfill host fees that brought in $400,000 annually to the county.
Prior to that, he worked as the superintendent of Escambia County Public Works in Cantonment from September 1998 to January 2003. For nearly 15 years, from April 1984 to September 1998, Lakey was a correctional lieutenant with the Birmingham Police Department.
Godwin received his high school diploma from Walton High School in 1986. From there, he went on to receive his correctional officer basic recruit certification. From 1986 to 2004, Godwin attended courses toward a criminal justice degree from Okaloosa Walton Community College, Troy State University, and Chipola Junior College. He received in 2000 a certified public manager designation from Florida State University.
Godwin has been a county employee as the chief deputy tax collector since January 2005. Prior to that, he served as an assistant warden at Walton Correctional Institution, November 2000 to January 2005. He also served as correctional programs administrator, April 1998 to January 2000, as well as senior prison inspector in Delray Beach, Tallahassee, and at the central office, March 1993 to April 1998. Godwin worked in Okaloosa County as a correctional officer from July 1988 to March 1993.
His references include Representative Brad Drake, Sheriff Michael Adkinson, Rhonda Skipper, and Martha Ingle, among others.
Former District 3 Commissioner Larry Jones is another applicant for the position of county administrator. Paired with his 12 years as a commissioner, Jones has a Master of public administration from Strayer University and a Bachelor of Arts in management from the University of West Florida.
Jones says he would work to keep commissioners "in the loop" by means of his communication skills, citizen focus, and management skills, among others. As a former commissioner, Jones writes that he would bring that insight to the position of county administrator.
During his term as a county commissioner, Jones worked as a public sector manager at Waste Management from 2009 to April 2012. He worked as an adjunct professor at Columbia Southern University's School of Business in Orange Beach, Ala., 2009 to December 2011. From 1980 to 2008, Jones worked as the owner, operator, and/or manager for various successful businesses, including multiple retail establishments and restaurants.
Before Demers became the interim county administrator last summer, he took the assistant county administrator position in 2010. Demers boasts 26 years of "supervisory and management experience," with seven and a half of those years with Walton County, where he has met the challenge of budgeting while keeping up morale and "bring calm to the issues as well as stability to the workforce."
Demers has been working with the county in the capacity of the county administrator position since May 2012, after Greg Kisela resigned, and he previously held the post January 2011 to June 2011. He has also worked as the director of the planning and development, March 2009 to November 2010; and deputy building official of Walton County, June 2005 to March 2009, and Okaloosa County, June 2002 to June 2005. Demers has also owned his own construction business from 1993 to 2000, and he was also employed by the U.S. Army, as a captain 1984 to 1993, and as a sergeant 1976 to 1981.
Demers then attended Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., to receive his Bachelor of Arts degree, 1981 to 1984.
Barwick received his Bachelor of Science in political science, certificate of public administration, and Master of Science degree from Florida State University.
Most recently, he has worked as the county coordinator of Jefferson County, a post he has held since July 2012. Previously, he was a county manager of Brantley County from September 2009 to July 2012. There, he worked with commissioners to reduce operations debt by more than $2 million, while lowering the tax millage rate.
He worked as a county administrator for the Wakulla County Board of County Commissioners, where he managed the county budget of $30 million and directed administration of 175 full-time employees. He also worked as a development representative for the bureau of seafood and aquaculture, November 1993 to March 1997. He also worked as a secondary school instructor in Wakulla County, August 1991 to November 1993; and Gadsden County, August 1990 to August 1991.
Bonner received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, then attained a Master of business administration from Webster University in St. Louis, Mo. Bonner was the manager for the North Miami Beach city council from March 2011 to September 2012. April 2008 to February 2011, Bonner served as county administrator of Okeechobee County, where he secured funding and completed more than $7.5 million in capital improvements. The monies were used to restore the county's courthouse as well as build an emergency operations center.
He was the city manager in Bunnell from May 2002 to May 2006. There, he "embarked on an aggressive campaign that resulted in the incorporation of over 87,000 acres into the city."
Bonner included in his application that he is married, and that he and his wife have an 8-year-old son.
Halfhill earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from the University of West Florida and followed that degree with a Master of Arts in public administration from San Diego, Calif.
Since 2009, Halfhill has been working as a public works director in Port Charlotte, Fla., and prior to that, worked 2003 to 2009 as a facilities management director for the city of Miami Beach. He started in that position as assistant public administrator and was promoted in June 2006. Halfhill took a position in Pensacola in 1999 as a public works director.
He was appointed an interim county administrator in 2001 and left that post in 2003. He also received a promotion from fleet management superintendent in Hollywood, Fla., then was promoted to assistant public works director in 1994. He worked there until 1997. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1977 and retired as an officer in 1990. He also worked as an adjunct instructor at UWF, Pensacola Junior College, and Broward community college throughout the 1990s.