Hillsborough transit authority changes search timeline for CEO due to tax referendum  By Veronica Brezina-Smith  –

Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

2 hours ago

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority’s search for its next top executive has been pushed back.

After a back and forth discussion on proposing a new timeline for search firm Krauthamer and Associates Inc. to find the right candidates, by a majority vote the board agreed to change the November interviewing time frame to January 2019.

“I have some concerns speaking to the motion itself that we have a referendum on our ballot that could dramatically change where we are here at HART and we would know about that later in November,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, during the Sept. 10 board meeting. “We could also have a significant board change in January and so I would really feel more comfortable pushing this out to a different timeline.”

She recommended that the beginning of January would be ideal as it would be after the holidays and the board would know whether the referendum passed; the All for Transportation referendum would raise sales tax 1 percent to fund transportation and transit improvements.

“We could also have significantly different candidates who are interested in this position. If candidates are looking at if we have a big budget, they might be more interested if we have less, they might be more interested and it could be different of who we have available,” Murman said.

Commissioner Mike Suarez didn’t share the same view that the referendum would have that much impact. The recruitment process was to start on Sept. 10 through Nov. 9, then on Nov. 16 or Nov. 19 would be the first round of interviews with roughly five candidates by the ad-hoc committee. The structure of the first round of interviews was to be videoconference and a set of pre-listed questions. The week of Dec. 3 or Dec. 10 would have been the final interviews with two to three candidates. Once the board selects the new CEO and negotiations are complete, the new CEO would start 30 to 45 days after selection.

“I assume most of the people you are going to be talking to to try to get interested in our position here as CEO would be sophisticated in understanding what’s going on with our referendum and so on,” Suarez said to Gregg Moserwith Krauthamer & Associates, who was listening in via conference call and confirmed that the candidates would have knowledge of the referendum.

“If they are going to open themselves to this position, it doesn’t matter whether or not we do it now or in January; do you think that’s a fair assessment?” Suarez asked. “Meaning the referendum might not have as much of a difference, other than those people might drop out if the referendum doesn’t pass because now they don’t want to come into a position where we will have less money.”

Moser answered by stating his concerns with extending the timeline due candidates being susceptible to Florida Sunshine laws and the market being highly competitive.

“There’s fewer candidates than there are needs,” Moser said, urging the board to avoid pause.

“I think the timeline they have set now is a reasonable timeline. I don’t think we are going to have a situation where we are going to get better candidates because we have more money or less candidates,” Suarez said. “Believe me, people who will want to move will move, they are going to want to interview and make sure they are at the forefront when money starts coming in, which is in January. I would rather have us go with the original timeline.”

In the end, the board voted to change the timeline.

Everything will stay in place except the first round of interviews will be pushed to January instead of the middle of November, Commissioner Les Miller said.

The advertisement for the new CEO will start on Nov. 7. Meanwhile, the board will review at its next meeting the extended agreement with Interim CEO Jeff Seward; his current contract expires on Nov. 30.

A new CEO will earn between $139,000 and $219,000 annually, according to previous HART documents.

HART is expected to manage a 2019 budget of $111.5 million.