Sarasota County Administrator Randy Reid made his debut on the stage of the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club Thursday, Aug. 16, delivering an upbeat update about the state of Sarasota County and its government.
When asked about the county’s budget, to be considered in-depth again at a County Commission workshop next Monday, Reid said the numbers seem to be leveling off after years of declining property tax revenue. “We’re stable,” Reid said, “and actually when I say stable, I mean blessed.” Many other counties haven’t been as fortunate, he said.
He credited the commission for wisely managing the county’s resources during the recent recession.
He also discussed his push for a lump sum paymentfor non-union county workers who haven’t seen a raise in five years. Reid stressed the fact that layoffs and the region’s economic difficulties have put added pressure on those employees.
“My business doesn’t get less busy during bad times,” he said, citing the increased demand for social services as an example of how the poor economy has added to the county’s workload. “They have only had to work harder,” he said. “I hopefully will be able to provide some kind of lump sum.”
According to Reid, as the private sector begins to grow stronger, the county will have to compete to keep its best employees.
He was asked a few times about how Sarasota County compares to Alachua County, where he worked before. He talked about creating pilot programs for renewable energy, a field in which Alachua has become a statewide leader, but said he would insist on a strong return on investment.
Reid downplayed the scandal over purchasing procedures that has led to one arrest and much turnover in the county Procurement Department, saying one criminal out of 2,000 employees reflects the numbers of society at large. “It’s tragic that happened,” he acknowledged, but he said the county has “made great strides in tightening down” procurement policies. He wondered aloud if perhaps the rules had become too tight. “Right now we have a backlog of projects,” he said. “There’s a lot of concern about, ‘Can I do this?'”
The moderator asked Reid about Sarasota residents’ tendency to squabble about local issues, something Reid said he takes in stride. “I think democracy’s meant to be messy,” he answered, recounting an anecdote about a situation during a previous job when a police cruiser had to escort him away from a contentious meeting with farmers. “There’s always been a bit of turmoil in public meetings,” he said. “It’s always unfortunate when somebody has such a shrill voice it shuts everybody else down,” but “that’s something that comes with the turf.”