The consulting firm hired to help find Okaloosa County’s next administrator didn’t try to keep the county’s scandalous past under wraps from potential candidates.
In fact, Colin Baenzinger & Associates spelled it out in a glossy, full-color brochure advertising the job. Baenzinger’s team referred to Okaloosa’s track record as an issue “of perception.”
The brochure notes that some county agencies as well as elected and appointed officials have been involved in “well publicized scandals over the past few years.”
“While these individuals are no longer public servants and corrective actions have been taken, some feel the county has run amuck,” the brochure said. “Regaining the public trust will be a challenge.”
The county’s most recent scandal, a fraud scheme concocted by former tourism head Mark Bellinger that ultimately ended in his suicide, attracted national attention.
“I’d say most people are aware,” of the issues, Baenzinger said Wednesday. “When they’re serious about a job, they Google the area to see what’s out there.”
Still, the county’s history of corruption has not appeared to curb interest in the county administrator’s post, which offers a salary of $120,000 to $150,000.
Baenzinger received resumes from 101 people hoping to replace outgoing County Administrator Jim Curry. The deadline to apply was Feb. 8.
The search has drawn interest from as far away as Canada and Mozambique. Applicants also have responded from dozens of states, including California, Michigan, Oregon, Louisiana, Texas and Arizona.
“I’m comfortable with the candidates we have,” Baenzinger said. “We’re going to get a really good county administrator. … There’s always going to be some that aren’t qualified and then there will be some that are well qualified but who aren’t the right fit.”
Most of the candidates are from Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
Applicants from Northwest Florida include Don Turner, Okaloosa County’s director of facilities maintenance; Lawrence Johnson, a project manager at L-3 Communications in Niceville; former Walton County Commissioner Larry Jones; and interim Walton County Administrator Gerry A. Demers.
“You typically find that people like to stay in their own part of the country,” Baenzinger said. “I thought most of our candidates would come from the Southeast.”
He and his team are screening the applicants.
“We’re making sure they are who they say they are and checking references and just trying to decide who we’re ultimately going to recommend as a finalist,” Baenzinger said.
The screening includes checking criminal and civil records, credit and bankruptcy records, performing Internet checks and verifying academic degrees, he said.
The brochure advertising the position also reminds potential candidates that a large part of the job will be to mend fences with taxpayers.
“While many of the recent scandals have little or nothing to do with the Board of County Commissioners, the public does not always understand the finer points of governmental organizational lines,” the brochure said. “Consequently, the county is looking for someone whose integrity is above reproach, who is comfortable being extremely open with the public and press, and who will help restore the public’s trust in the county.”
Baenzinger said his team will cull the candidates to a pool of five to eight people by March 18. He then will review the finalists and alternates with county commissioners.
Those candidates will visit the county March 28 and 29 for one-on-one and group interviews with the commissioners.
The board is expected finalize the hiring of the new administrator by April 2.
Curry, who has worked for Okaloosa County for 35 years, is set to retire April 19.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Kari Barlow at 850-315-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KariBnwfdn.