Assistant Palm Beach County Administrator Shannon LaRocque will become Wellington’s utilities director as of Sept. 29 after 11 years with the county, replacing Bill Riebe, who resigned recently.
Village Manager Paul Schofield said that LaRocque, whose many duties with the county included utilities, will be a welcome addition because there are numerous capital projects planned at the village’s utilities department.
The change will also mean a significant pay cut for LaRocque, going from her county salary of $182,861, to $150,000 annually with the village. “I’m not sure of the circumstances. I’m not sure why she came, but I am grateful that she applied,” Schofield said. “She was head-and-shoulders the best applicant that we saw, and we offered her the job very, very quickly. I’m enormously pleased that she’s coming to work for us.”
LaRocque was an internal candidate last year for the county administrator job along with Verdenia Baker, who was ultimately selected as the administrator at the recommendation of outgoing County Administrator Bob Weisman, who retired in August 2015.
LaRocque joined the county in 2005 as the Scripps program manager. She had worked in private consulting as a professional engineer and in municipal government prior to joining the county. She currently manages the Department of Economic Sustainability, Palm Tran, Water Utilities, the Scripps Program, Max Planck and the Convention Center hotel project. She serves as liaison to the Housing Finance Authority, the Workforce Development Board, the Business Development Board, the Westgate CRA and the Community Land Trust. She submitted her resignation to the county on Sept. 13, effective Sept. 29.
“What most people don’t realize is what her background is actually in,” Schofield said. “She had been an assistant county administrator for a long time, but she is an engineer, and her background is actually utilities, and we’ve got some significant utility projects going for the next several years, so I’m grateful to have someone with her experience.”
Schofield said that the village has a major renovation at the water plant that is currently under design.
“She’s going to finish the supervision of its design,” he said. “She’s going to oversee its construction.”
The village also has the amendment of its consumptive use permit with the South Florida Water Management District coming up, as well as a long-term water supply issue.
“One of the things I want her working on is how we’re dealing with some of our federal water quality issues,” Schofield said. “It’s just really hard to find anybody with the kind of experience and contacts that she has. There are a lot of good utility engineers out there. There are not a lot of utility engineers who have the state and federal regulatory contacts. Her contacts in Tallahassee are probably better than mine.”
The fact that LaRocque lives in Wellington is an added bonus.
“Everything that she works on here, every decision that she puts her hands on, every decision that she makes in upping that utility system, she’s not just the utilities director, she’s also a customer, and that helps,” Schofield said.
Schofield said LaRocque has been one of the more capable public administrators that he has seen with the county over the past decade. “She gets things done; you give her a task, she does it, and she does it very well,” he said. “I like the fact that when I found myself looking for a utilities director, I found one who is such an exceptional and outstanding leader, so well-respected. You just can’t pass up those opportunities.”
What a coup for Wellington. Ms La Rocque won’t be employed in Wellington for a long period of time though. Her skill set is top notch and she will either seek or be offered a higher employment opportunity that matches her abilities.
Sorry to see that Mr. Riebe resigned. He projected a calm and dignified presence at meetings while dealing with very difficult personalities in Wellington.
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