By DOTTY NIST
As a result of a May 9 decision, Greg Kisela is to become Walton County administrator.
The decision took place at a special Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the county courthouse in DeFuniak Springs, with commissioners convening at 9 a.m. to act on this one item.
Two weeks earlier, the commissioners had ranked Kisela as their top choice from a field of four candidates for the vacant position. They had also directed County Attorney Lynn Hoshihara to negotiate with him to work out an agreement to bring him on board as administrator.
Kisela currently serves as city manager for Destin.
Hoshihara presented the result of the negotiations in the form of an employment agreement at the May 9 special meeting, and District 2 Commissioner Kenneth Pridgen quickly moved to approve the agreement to hire Kisela. The motion was seconded, and discussion followed.
While expressing confidence that the candidate would do an excellent job and noting that he was highly recommended, District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander noted that the salary offer negotiated, combined with benefits and the county automobile to be provided, would come to $150,000 annually, “more than anybody’s ever made in this county.” She had concerns about the expenditure, given the county’s budget limitations.
The annual salary recommendation that had been negotiated was $132,500.
Comander instead proposed a salary of $127,000, to be accompanied by a list of goals and expectations, the achievement of which would result in a raise at the end of six months, with another raise to be considered at the end of the next six months.
District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones responded that the agreement provided by Hoshihara had been the result of four hours of negotiations. She added that taking the county administrator position would result in a $10,000 annual pay cut for Kisela. Jones urged for approval of the agreement. “We really need someone of this caliber,” she said.
Hoshihara commented that the benefits package provided for in the agreement was the same as for other senior-level county employees, and that the agreement also called for a six-month probation period, with the administrator to serve at the pleasure of the county commission.
A vote on the motion to approve the hiring agreement carried 4-1, with Comander voting no.
The agreement requires the administrator “to be on call for twenty-four hour service” and for a county vehicle to therefore be provided to him. He will be required to reside within the county.
The total cost of his individual health insurance is to be covered by the county, but no coverage of family health insurance premiums is provided.
An annual retirement benefit in an amount of 14.57 percent of the administrator’s annual salary is included in the agreement, as well as a lump-sum severance package equal to six months’ salary in the event of termination “without cause.”
Gerry Demers, assistant county administrator, is currently serving as acting county administrator. The agreement sets Kisela’s first day of work as June 21.