Pasco County Commissioners have selected Daniel F. Biles as their top choice for the next county administrator and his contract negotiations are underway.
Biles emerged as the clear favorite in the selection process, and commissioners voted unanimously to offer him the position, said Commission Chairman Mike Moore.
If Biles agrees to terms, he will replace County Administrator Michele Baker, who is retiring. She has been in the role since 2013, following a lengthy career with the county.
Commissioners had planned a two-day selection process. Initially they intended to conduct public interviews with all five candidates, followed by one-on-one individual interviews between each commissioner and each candidate.
After that, they were set to reconvene on the first day to narrow the field to three finalists, with those interviews expected on the following day, March 15.
But when they got back together, commissioners received a score sheet to rank the candidates on a scale of one to five, with five being the best score.
Heather Grimes, assistant county administrator, tallied the sheets and announced the outcome.
Biles scored a 25, meaning each commissioner identified him as the top choice, Moore said. Commissioners then decided to drop the second day of interviews.
Biles currently is the deputy county manager of Jefferson County, Alabama, located in Birmingham.
He has 10 years of experience in engineering, including work on stormwater issues. He also has a military background and has family living in Florida.
Besides the public interviews and one-on-one interviews, the candidates also went on a tour of the county and attended a private meet-and-greet session on March 13.
Other candidates that were considered were:
• Mark A. Cunningham, assistant county administrator in Sarasota County
• David M. Ross, the first county administrator of Rock Island County, Illinois, which formed its government in 2015
• Theodore L. Voorhees, the former city manager of Fayetteville, North Carolina
• Dale M. Walker, the county manager of the Macon-Bibb County government, which consolidated in 2014
The five candidates who were interviewed were selected from a list of 11 candidates recommended by the Chicago-based recruitment firm of GovHR USA.
Both Moore and Commissioner Mike Wells said the county had a top-notch pool of candidates.
But, both also said that Biles stood out.
Both commissioners said Biles’ military leadership experience, his private business experience and his government experience equip him to perform well in the job.
Moore characterized Biles as being relaxed and engaged.
“I watched how he interacted with folks, during the meet-and-greet period,” Moore said. “He just felt at home, to me, talking to people.
“Something else that stood out is that his spouse flew down with him, too. His spouse came to the meet-and-greet. She sat with him, while he was interacting with others. She also came and sat in the public interviews that we did, as a group, too,” Moore said.
“Obviously, you really take it serious if you make that decision to bring your spouse down,” Moore said.
That fact didn’t escape Wells’ notice, either, and if left a positive impression.
Wells said Biles obviously had done his homework and, he said, Biles clearly values the importance of customer service.
Moore also noted: “When I had my private interview with him, too, going one on one, he was very comfortable during that conversation. I never felt once that he was trying to oversell me.”
Besides being factual, “he (Biles) was bringing great ideas to the table,” Moore said.
After commissioners offered Biles the job, Moore said he was chatting with him, and Biles mentioned that today’s technology will enable him to be out and about in the county, while remaining accessible.
Moore thinks that’s important.
“When you’re a leader like that, your team needs to see you, and the community needs to see you,” Moore said.
The board is expected to vote on Biles’ contract at its next meeting, scheduled for March 28.
Published March 15, 2017