County Commission Moves to Make Hopes Permanent Administrator
BRADENTON – At Tuesday's meeting, Manatee County Commissioners voted 4-3 to move toward changing acting County Administrator Scott Hopes' status to permanent, despite having promised the public that would not be the case just six weeks ago when Hopes was sworn in for what was supposed to be a one-year stint.
Dr. Hopes, who also serves on the Manatee School Board, was hired following the new board's move to get rid of former county administrator Cheri Coryea, which began shortly after the November election. He was sworn in on April 1, the same day as the recent breach at Piney Point. Hopes' performance during the environmental crisis was cited by several commissioners in their support for changing course.
The vote authorized board chair Vanessa Baugh to "negotiate a resolution and agreement appointing Dr. Scott Hopes as Permanent County Administrator and then schedule it for board consideration at its regular meeting of May 25, 2021."
The item took many in the public by surprise, as it was a late addition to the agenda after being requested by Commissioner James Satcher. Commissioners Misty Servia and Carol Whitmore, who were strong defenders of Coryea, quickly lent their support, making it clear that there would be a majority.
Commissioner Reggie Bellamy reminded the board of its previous commitment to taxpayers, a sentiment echoed loudly by Commissioner George Kruse, who had cast the deciding vote in ousting Coryea, promising that he wouldn't vote for any replacement ahead of a national search.
Kruse said that while he supported Hopes and agreed with the board's assessment of his performance thus far, it had only been a matter of weeks since Hopes had been put in the role and that he could see "absolutely no advantage" in moving hastily while also breaking a commitment to the public.
"Let's wait until October 1 to even start a search, and then we can have this discussion," Kruse told fellow board members. "That gets us through our break, through work sessions, gets us through an entire budget process to see how that budget process goes, and it still leaves six months left on a contract we just negotiated at a reasonable price–more than enough time to do a search if we deem we want to. And, by then, if we say, you know what, let's save the taxpayers' money. It's expensive. It's time-consuming, it's most likely pointless because we've found the right guy ... now we can make the argument to everyone, we're not gonna do this search and we have backup support, not six weeks of support, half of it standing outside of a gypsum stack. We'd have real support after six months."
Kruse's speech swayed Servia, who said that she'd be okay with waiting until October 11. Commissioner Whitmore reiterated that the vote Tuesday was just to bring it back on May 25 and that each commissioner could vote however they see fit after talking to Hopes and the public. The vote passed 4-3 with commissioners Kruse, Bellamy and Servia dissenting.