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Interim county manager to keep post permanently

By Staff | Sep 2, 2009

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners decided Tuesday morning to suspend the search for a new county manager and drafted plans to place interim County Manager Karen Hawes in the position.
Former County Manager Don Stilwell was fired earlier this year for violating the county’s e-mail policy.
As the search for a new manager unfolded, the board received dozens of resumes from a number of prospects including Cape Coral City Manager Terry Stewart.
“The decision was to suspend the search, and I’m going to meet with the commissioners next week to discuss the contract and expectations,” Hawes said.
Hawes, who has been director of the Lee County Department of Human Services for 16 years, said commissioners have been asking her to serve as county manager for over three weeks.
She only recently decided to take the commission up on its offer Tuesday morning.
Commissioner Frank Mann said the board as a whole did not know that Hawes had changed her mind until the meeting began.
“Once we learned that, all five of us fairly well leapt at the idea of keeping her because hiring from within is always a good idea,” he said. “She is competent and well respected by her staff.”
Months ago the county hired Colin Baenzinger & Associates for $20,000 to accept resumes for the position.
The consultant was hired for 90 days, but Mann said the company’s services will no longer be needed as long as the negotiations with Hawes go as planned.
Some may view the expenditure as a waste, he said, but the board had no choice at the time but to begin working to fill the position vacated by Stilwell.
Lee County currently employs 2,600 employees and drafted a yearly budget worth $450 million in 2009.
The next fiscal year budget begins in October, said Hawes.
If the contract is finalized, Hawes said her first order of business would be to address the 2010-11 budget and strategic plan. Her focus would be to keep a sense of stability and to move forward in a positive way.
The county received negative attention earlier this year when e-mails from Stilwell, obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, contained photographs and videos of a sexual nature.
A draft of the contract for the position will be drawn up this week and presented to Hawes at the next commission meeting.
Hawes’ annual salary is currently $170,000. Even if she decides to take the county manager position, there are no plans to ask for a raise.
“I’m not asking for a salary change,” she said.