Reid’s new staff recommendations win commission approval

Photo by Norman Schimmel

Lee Ann Lowery and Mark A. Cunningham have been appointed assistant
Sarasota County administrators by County Administrator Randall H. Reid.

Lowery will begin work Sept. 10, while Cunningham will start work on Sept. 24, Reid said.

The County Commission voted unanimously Aug. 22 to approve the action.

“I’m trying to have a new team established before Oct. 1,” Reid explained.

Oct. 1 is the start of the new fiscal year.

“I’m extremely pleased that Lee Ann and Mark are joining our leadership team,” Reid said in a news release. “They not only bring extensive experience and leadership to the county. They also share the values and goals that make Sarasota County a premier county government.”

Reid also told the commission during its regular meeting on Aug. 22 that the new organizational structure he was proposing would be based on multiple assistant managers. It would be similar to the organizations of former county administrators Jim Ley and John Wesley White, the news release said. The changes also reflect the planned retirement of Deputy County Administrator Bill Little in February 2013.

“I think we do need to go back to the basics,” Reid said. “This county had multiple administrators at the top in the past, and I’d like to go back to that. … I have a great deal of confidence this will work out.”

Reid added that he would create groups of directors and managers focused on common tasks and responsibilities, which will be headed by assistant county administrators to assure seamless county services, and cooperation and coordination on complex county projects.

He has been discussing the changes with staff, he told the commission.

The functions that had been directed by John McCarthy, the interim director of Community Services, would be reassigned, Reid said. McCarthy retired in July after 31 years with the county. That position won’t be refilled, Reid said.

“We’re not really increasing upper-level staff,” Commissioner Nora Patterson said, “so I can support [the plan].”

Lowery has been assistant county administrator of St. Lucie County, where she has worked since 2007. She also served that county as environmental resources director as well as parks, recreation and facilities director.

Lowery has a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Central Florida and 25 years of experience in public administration in Florida, which includes serving as assistant city manager in Gainesville, where she handled community services projects and programs for homeless people. She has been manager of Youth and Family Services for Orange County, and she worked for the Orange County School Board as senior manager for government relations and real property.

Cunningham will come to Sarasota County from Denton, Texas, where he has been the executive director of planning and development. He also has been director of land development in Polk County.

Cunningham has an extensive background in growth management, infill development and strategic and long-term planning. He has been a development review planner for Baltimore County and Fredrick County, Md. He also has served in planning and zoning positions in Charles County, Md., and Jacksonville, N.C.

Cunningham has a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Baltimore. He is a Certified Public Manager and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Cunningham also is a former member of the United States Marine Corps, where he was a military planner, trainer and drill instructor.

He will be working with county Public Works Director James K. Harriott Jr. to coordinate activities involving planning, development and construction.

Harriott has been assigned responsibility for the county field operations facility on Sarasota Center Boulevard off Fruitville Road. That structure is known as the “BOB” Building [big old building], but Reid told the commission he also was working on a name change.

Harriott has an expanded role in coordinating capital improvements construction and maintenance, Reid pointed out.

Harriott has served the county for 16 years; has a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in engineering.

In other staffing news: During the Aug. 21 County Commission meeting, Reid and the commissioners welcomed Assistant County Administrator Tom Harmer, who began this week.

Reid told the commission Aug. 22 that Harmer would be his chief of staff.

In response to a question, Reid explained that Harmer would coordinate operations whenever Reid was out of the office — on vacation, for example.