While the County Commission has, in my opinion, bungled the hiring process for the new County Manager, I am ecstatic that a solution has presented itself and the Commission would be hard pressed to do better! When they abdicated their authority in the selection process to a contract firm, The Mercer Group, the Commission inserted the judgment and perspectives of Mercer Senior Vice President W. D. Higginbotham for their own. This was a mistake.
Higginbotham has already stated publicly that he believes that public sector experience is a requirement for the Brevard County Manager job. Many of us believe this opinion is in error and does not serve the Brevard community well. While the Commission has submitted criteria to Mercer for this search, it’s unlikely to draw candidates outside Higginbotham’s narrow view of acceptable candidates. In addition, the decision to do this with outside help and the subsequent discussion of qualifications that the 5 member commission could not settle easily have contributed to a significant delay in hiring the new County Manager. It will be at least the end of August before the new employee is placed. The County Manager would arrive just in time to be told the new budget, while having no input or understanding of the philosophy that put that budget together. The county is being underserved by this process.
Fortunately there is an answer, a simple answer that is staring right at us. It fits the agreed upon criteria (although it would not have two years ago). Thankfully the City of Palm Bay actually looked to the private sector for their City Manager vacancy. They landed Gregg Lynk, an experienced CEO who made the transition well from private to public employment. The stranger heads in the city prevailed when it came to Lynk's compensation, though. They undercut his pay significantly, agreeing to review his performance in a couple of years and, if his performance was as good as public sector employees had exhibited, his salary would be raised to a competitive rate. Lynk took the challenge and met it. He received a substantial, but still below market rate for the job, raise just two weeks ago.
Palm Bay’s Mayor and Councilman Jeff Bailey, the liberal and outnumbered wing of the City Council, are dissatisfied with Lynk for some reason and, at the same time the raise was granted, began a campaign to undermine the wishes of Council (the pay raise vote was 3-2) and potentially remove Lynk from his position. Bailey has placed Lynk’s contract on the council agenda for this week (May 4) and the mayor has resubmitted a letter of no-confidence in Lynk that he had submitted the day after Lynk’s pay raise was granted. While they apparently don’t understand counting to three on a five person board, it would seem to me that a quality manager like Lynk should not have to undergo this nonsense when his performance has merited the compensation originally withheld by the city.
And that is where the solution for the county comes into play. Gregg Lynk should submit his application to the county for the County Manager’s position. The compensation is in his acceptable range, his resume fits the search criteria (now that he has that all important -choke, choke- government experience) and his character is beyond reproach. This is a win-win for Brevard County and, in reality, for the City of Palm Bay. The county gets a quality replacement for Stockton Whitten and Palm Bay can seek another candidate that won’t be a lightning rod for the liberals on council. If the County Commission wants its credibility back on this issue, this decision is the right one to make.