The Pasco County Commission decided it didn’t need to look beyond its current staff to fill the county’s top job.
Board members took action at their June 21 meeting, elevating Mike Carballa, assistant county administrator of public infrastructure, to interim county administrator, effective July 30.
Board chairwoman Kathryn Starkey will negotiate a contract with Carballa, who has been selected on a unanimous board vote to become county administrator, effective Oct. 1.
The action to promote Carballa happened quickly.
Dan Biles officially announced his resignation on May 17. His contract expires Sept. 30, but he’ll be leaving sooner because of accrued time off.
County Commissioner Ron Oakley made a motion to appoint Carballa to the interim county administrator during the board’s June 7 meeting, but withdrew it after Starkey raised concerns about making that decision without a full board. Commissioner Mike Moore was absent because of illness.
Seeking a compromise, Biles suggested that the board could direct him to start working with Carballa, and delay any formal action until the following meeting.
That led to Oakley’s motion on June 21.
Oakley told his colleagues: “Last time I’d made a motion for an interim administrator and by waiting, I’ve thought more about it. If I was doing this in my business, and it was a vice president, or something who had left my business and I had someone interim to put in that position, I wouldn’t put him in there as an interim. I’d put him in the position and go forward, and it would be a smooth transition.”
Commissioner Jack Mariano added: “My first thoughts were a national search, get the best candidate you can for the county.”
But Mariano said he, too, had a change of heart.
Mariano referenced a budget meeting that he’d had the previous day with Carballa, Erik Breitenbach, assistant administrator of internal services, and Robert Goehig, the county’s budget director.
That meeting, Mariano said, solidified his feeling that promoting Carballa was the right move.
He said both Carballa and Breitenbach initially indicated interest in the job, but Breitenbach backed away, saying this wasn’t the best time for him to pursue it, because of family considerations.
Commissioners express confidence in Carballa
“I don’t think there’s been a better person suited to take over the county administrative than Mike Carballa, of anyone I’ve ever seen,” Mariano said. “He’s really diligent. I think he’s ready for the job.”
Oakley agreed: “I think it would be really smooth and this county will keep moving forward.”
Commissioner Mike Moore said Carballa is “obviously, very competent, obviously, understands the county — lives in the county, knows the county very well.
“I have all of the confidence in the world in him. I think he would excel at this position,” Moore said.
At the same time, Moore said he wanted to hear the thoughts of his other colleagues.
Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick gave her stamp of approval: “I think he would be a great asset to the county.”
Chairwoman Starkey added: “I also think Mike is very, very capable. I’ve talked with people who have worked with him, in other agencies, and they find him to be capable, as well.
“I have mixed emotions because I think sometimes it’s good to hear what other people’s ideas are in other places.
“I’ve had the opportunity to live around the world and I’ve learned something in every place that I’ve lived, so I guess I can go either way.
“I know sometimes when you do a national search you don’t know what you’re going to get. “We’ve interviewed some people that probably weren’t right for our county, but we did find someone like Dan Biles.
“I think Mike can do a great job, but I also think it’s good to hear what others have to offer, and bright ideas from other really prime areas that I think we could attract from,” Starkey said, but she did not push for a national search.
Moore said the decision to hire from within is not unusual.
“Pasco County is a very large company. We’re the board of directors and all of the constituents are its shareholders. The shareholders decide who the board of directors are and the board of directors decides who our new CEO is.
“If you look at companies, throughout time, people groom their replacement. The board doesn’t always go out and do a national search.
“Why put outside people through a process when we know who we want?
“It’s not fair to them, anyhow. So, good decision,” Moore concluded.
Fitzpatrick also noted some of Carballa’s attributes: “It’s very easy to speak with him. He has great communication skills. He’s respectful. He has ethical values and integrity.”
Mariano added: “We’ve got a great team. We’ve got great leadership. We can keep this thing rolling … without skipping a beat.”
Carballa, who was filling in for Biles at the June 21 meeting, told commissioners that their action was unexpected, but appreciated.
“It was also unexpected for me to land here, in Pasco County, and work for such a great administrator, Dan Biles, as well as the people that we work with here, this board and our various stakeholders.
“I do appreciate your confidence. I look forward to working alongside the women and men, as well as our key stakeholders, in Pasco County, as your county administrator. So, thank you for that,” Carballa said.
Carballa joined the county’s senior leadership staff in 2014, after working at Tampa Bay area engineering firms, according to information provided by the county.
Before working in the private sector, Carballa was a captain in the U.S. Air Force for five years.
He holds a master’s degree from the University of Florida Warrington College of Business and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of South Florida.
Carballa and his wife have two children, and they are Pasco residents.
Published June 29, 2022
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