The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors interviewed two candidates for its vacant district manager position on Wednesday. However, the board deferred a decision for two weeks after convincing Director of Operations & Maintenance Rob Robinson, who has been serving as acting manager, to reconsider his decision not to apply for the job permanently.
Last month, the board developed a shortlist of candidates, and they interviewed two of those candidates Wednesday. Former Wellington Engineer Bill Riebe and Michael Brillhart were deemed well-qualified. Two other candidates from the shortlist, Christopher Quirk and Eve Walker-Alsdorf, did not appear for the interview.
Robinson initially applied for the job but withdrew his application on consideration of the potential salary differential and the added time involved with the manager’s position.
ITID President Betty Argue urged Robinson to think about the position after seeing him at work during Hurricane Irma and responding effectively to other district matters.
She asked human relations attorney Lara Donlon what the board’s options were.
“The board could move forward with a selection if you so choose,” Donlon said. “If the board doesn’t feel ready to make a decision, for whatever reason, and if you want to schedule more time with the candidates to learn more about them, the board could certainly postpone or defer to a later date.”
Argue said she felt both candidates interviewed were interesting. However, she felt that the process was not conducive to knowing whether the person would actually be effective on the job.
Supervisors Ralph Bair and Carol Jacobs said they liked both of the candidates, but wanted to hear the other supervisors’ opinions. Supervisor Jennifer Hager was not at the meeting.
Jacobs said she would like to get a consensus on one candidate and go out for more applications, but Bair objected.
“I think you stand a chance of losing both,” Bair said. “If you want to go back out, that’s fine, but I don’t favor that. You may have less of a pool the next time around.”
Argue said she felt one of the issues was the pay range.
“There are some people who are just not going to bother responding, or maybe chose to withdraw or not show up for the interview because of money,” she said.
Bair noted that the salary range for the manager has been a point of contention for years. “Discussion after discussion, in recent years, has been how much the administrator is paid,” he said.
Argue said the salary range was on the agenda for later that evening and felt that should be kept separate. She added that some of the current salaries overlap.
“I think that’s something we need to look at and consider,” she said, pointing out a comment that former ITID Manager Woody Wodraska had said, that in order to retain quality personnel, the district needs to have competitive salaries. “I like to get the best person for the cheapest dollar, but it doesn’t work that way.”
Robinson said the reason he withdrew his application was the salary range.
“From being here a short time, it’s not a 40-hour-a-week job,” he said. “It’s 50 or 60 hours a week. It’s when somebody calls, and they need the lights turned on or off at the park, or an operational emergency. It’s a 24-hour position. Once I reviewed the salary… that was one of the reasons I withdrew.”
Bair pointed out that Hager had not had a chance to review the applicants. “We can take a chance and postpone this for a month,” he said. “I’d still like to have Jennifer’s comments, if nothing else.”
Donlon said the salary rate is important, but suggested that the board focus more on who the best candidate for the job is before discussing salary.
Argue said when they appointed Robinson as acting manager, they did not know to the full extent how he would do.
“I think we were all very happy with his performance as the director of operations and maintenance, but I think that Rob, since he’s been in this position, has really [shined],” she said. “He has gone above and beyond, not just because he’s in that interim position. Since he took on that responsibility, there has been a lot that has been coming at him, and he’s handled it very well.”
Argue added that in Tallahassee for Palm Beach County Days, Robinson was very comfortable in that environment, talking with the legislators and the different social functions. “I think that we would be negligent as a board to not consider that we have somebody here in the position doing the job and doing it very well,” she said.
She felt one of the most important qualities Robinson possesses is his hands-on knowledge of district operations.
“These two gentlemen seem to know the management side, and we always end up with the finance experience, but not field work experience, and that’s something that Rob brings to the table,” Argue said.
Jacobs said in her 12 years on the board, she has seen a lot of different managers, and Robinson has been one of the best. “I was very disappointed when he took his application out,” she said. “I don’t know if he even wants the position, but… he’s always available, and I’ve never seen anyone ever who can do what he can do.”
Bair said he was looking for more of an executive manager, although he felt Robinson has shown he is capable. “I don’t see where, unless he changes his mind, that we have a choice, unless we go out to bid again,” he said.
Robinson reiterated that one of the reasons he withdrew was the salary range and the work hours.
“I’m not trying to hold this place hostage,” he said. “I’m a resident here, but salary was my main concern, knowing what it takes to run this place and be available at your beck and call.”
Supervisor Gary Dunkley felt the board should give Robinson a chance to think about it, and supervisors be given the opportunity to interview the other candidates individually.
“Right now, there’s one member of our board missing, and I really don’t want to go through this again,” Dunkley said. “If someone loves what they’re doing, they’re going to do a better job at it. Right now, you’re putting him in a corner. Give him a chance to think about it.”
Robinson said that he enjoys his current job but would gladly go back to his original position.
“I do enjoy a challenge, and this job is definitely a challenge,” he said. “There’s no lack of excitement in this position; it comes at you fast. I like dealing with the pace. I was the first one out here for Irma, whatever it takes. If conditions call for 7 o’clock at night, I’m out there to look at a potential hazard in the district to be sure there’s no loss of life or limb.”
Argue pointed out that the other candidates had not been asked the same questions as Robinson in the interview process. She wondered if the board should have a second round of interviews.
Donlon said the board would need to reopen the interview process in order to offer the position to Robinson.
Jacobs made a motion to defer a decision to Feb. 7, giving Hager time to review the tape and Robinson time to think about what he wants. The motion carried 4-0.