Collier County Hires Company to Find New County Manager
Collier County commissioners have selected an executive search firm to find its next county manager, a move two officials say was a waste of taxpayers’ money.
The decision came following County Manager Mark Isackson’s decision to retire effective July 1 and the subsequent firing of Deputy Manager Sean Callahan after he was caught working as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., without notify the county.
In his email to Collier County staff, Isackson said his continued struggle with post-COVID conditions became the deciding factor for him to step down from his role in government.
During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners also confirmed Isackson’s four appointments to the agency’s leadership team: Dan Rodriguez, deputy county manager; Trinity Scott, Head of Transportation Management Services; Jamie French, Head of Growth Management; and Tanya Williams, Head of the Utilities Department.
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“I’m very pleased with the four people Mark presented, all of whom were unanimously approved,” Commissioner Andy Solis said.
Callahan was removed from his government post last month after Isackson discovered he had failed to disclose his second job as a lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
After the news became public, he resigned from the lobbying firm, according to a spokesperson for Brownstein. Callahan did not respond to repeated emails, phone calls or knocks on the door of his Naples residence.
County government public information officer Bill Fassold wrote in an email last week that Isackson “will have no further comment on Callahan’s termination…”
LoCastro and McDaniel say no to the company
Last month, Collier Commissioners approved Commissioner Burt Saunders’ motion that the county’s human resources department announce the hiring of search firms to help the county locate and screen internal and external candidates.
On Tuesday afternoon, commissioners approved Colin Baenziger & Associates as the firm of choice by a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Rick LoCastro and William McDaniel dissenting.
LoCastro told the Naples Daily News that a recruiting firm was unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers’ money. During the meeting, he noted that just a year ago, the county successfully hired Isackson without using third-party recruiting services.
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“We actually have a research company in Collier County, it’s called the Collier County Human Resources Department, and their payroll is $1.2 million,” LoCastro said. “I think they can advertise for us to hire an employee to be our county manager. If they can’t, then we have to reshuffle this whole office.”
Reached by phone Tuesday evening, Colin Baenziger of Baenziger & Associates said he was confident in his firm’s ability to “really help candidates understand the position and what they would be getting into”. He added that his company has built a reputation for efficient and comprehensive background check services.
However, LoCastro argues that hiring such a company puts the county at risk of paying far more than expected. At the meeting, the commissioners received only rough estimates of the initial fees calculated by interested recruiting companies.
“You have to read the fine print. We’re going to pay all their expenses, hotel bills,” he said. “I’ve worked with recruitment firms before this, they get per diems, and you think they’re going to come here and find a candidate in six days. They’re going to be here for two months.”
Commissioners also voted to approve the review of internal candidates to apply for the position. While some thought internal competition might scare off external candidates, McDaniel and LoCastro disagreed.
“I don’t think that’s the crippling factor. I think, frankly, I think the salary is a crippling factor,” McDaniel said. Isackson earns $230,000 a year.
Commissioner Andy Solis, who is not seeking re-election, said “some of the commissioners who think hiring a research agency is a waste of money, well, they’re certainly welcome in their view. But obviously three of us disagreed.”
“I think it’s worth doing and investing in getting a bigger, stronger list of the research company that works specifically in this area that we wouldn’t otherwise attract by just posting it online.”