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Good Changes In Manatee County

Sam Cooke once sang “A change is gonna come.” In Manatee County county politics the change has finally arrived. The process started two years ago when George Kruse, James Satcher and Kevin Van Ostenbridge joined Vanessa Baugh on the conservative wing of the Manatee County Commission.

The change was abrupt and Commissioners Misty Servia and Carol Whitmore along with their comrades County Administrator Cheryl Coryea and County Clerk Angel Colonneso began to throw roadblocks into the steady march of the new conservative agenda.

The roadblocks created fireworks and made the road bumpier for the four conservative commissioners. Fortunately they did not allow the four Big Government comrades (Servia, Whitmore, Coryea and Colonneso) to derail their agenda. Cheryl Coryea, hopelessly overwhelmed as Ed Hunzeker’s pick for his replacement, was sent into early retirement.

The Democratic Party and their comrades, Servia, Whitmore and Colonneso, screamed that without Coryea, Manatee County would be unable to operate efficiently. Little did we know that the mismanagement of county government that had occurred for years was about to be exposed.

Dr. Scott Hopes was hired as the new County Administrator and Servia and Whitmore worked diligently behind the scenes to poison the working environment for Hopes.

A funny thing happened on the road to ruin. Scott Hopes began unravelling the utter incompetence that had been the hallmark of the Hunzeker/Coryea administrations. Hunzeker seems to have been a control freak that set up as many as 20 direct reports to him. Coryea continued this inefficient practice

Any first year business school student is taught that delegation is an important part of any business hierarchy. “Hire the best and let them run their departments.” The trouble with Hunzeker and Coryea appears to be that they did not always hire the best. It seems they hired or promoted people who they liked or were nice people that everyone liked. Looking back it appears that many employees were promoted to their level of incompetence. Numerous departments had directors without college degrees and some with no real experience in their area of management.

Fortunately, Hopes arrived 18 months ago and began reassessing the county government structure. He realized there were numerous county departments without qualified leadership. Hopes found county building projects that had been approved and funded but showed little or no progress. He did what any good manager would do; he established measurables to hold department leaders accountable. Of course this rocked the boat of many county employees and their cronies. Commissioners Servia and Whitmore began stirring up opposition to the needed changes.

Hopes did not become discouraged or intimidated by the efforts of Servia and Whitmore to inhibit the needed changes. He continued to push for changes and began replacing department leaders who could not get the job accomplished.

Hopes found numerous instances of needless government waste or inaction on important projects. One incident was when Hopes found out that the county parks were closing the pools on the 4th of July. He also found that managers were relying on lifeguards to do the pool maintenance and major problems were not being addressed in a timely manner. Further research revealed that many lifeguards had lost their CPR/First Aid certification. This was a result of incompetent managers.

Hopes also found waste in the county health insurance program. Research into past contracts revealed millions of wasted expenses as a result of incompetent management. By negotiating change to the terms of the health insurance contract, Hopes will save the taxpayers several million dollars a year.

This past election resulted in Servia and Whitmore being swept from office. The present County Commissioners understand that Hopes has the intelligence and perseverance to control costs in the county budget.

Former Administrator Coryea had 14 executive positions while Hopes’ team consists of 12 executive positions. Coryea’s executive team was paid $2.3 million while Hopes’ executive team is paid $2.1 million. Coryea had 20 direct reports while Hopes has 6 direct reports.

Hopes is thrilled with the four deputy administrators: Robert Reinshuttle, Charlie Bishop, Courtney De Pol and Mitchell Teitelbaum. “This is a very qualified and motivated team,” Hopes said.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh believes that the new administrative team will allow commissioners to better serve the needs of their constituents. “Commissioners are the initial contacts of many citizens that have needs that must be addressed” said Baugh. The new deputy administrators give commissioners a quicker pathway for helping citizens resolve issues.

Vanessa Baugh stood out at the recent commission meetings because of the wide smile on her face. Baugh said, “You can feel the difference every day, there is now a spirit of cooperation among commissioners and staff.”

We knew change was “gonna come” to Manatee County government. Fortunately, Hopes, Baugh, Kruse, Satcher and Van Ostenbidge persevered through the many roadblocks that were put in their pathway. As Sam Cooke sang it was a long time coming but the changes will bring huge benefits to the citizens of Manatee County.

Bob Spencer
Manatee Herald

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