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Former Quincy commissioner hired as county administrator

With the intent to hire a new county administrator, the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners held meetings on September 16-17 to conduct the interviewing and hiring process.

The board interviewed three candidates on September 16. The first candidate was Stanley Hawthorne, former assistant city manager for Ft. Lauderdale. The second was Lyndon Bonner, the current Jackson County Administrator. The third candidate was Troy Gilyard, the Florida Attorney General Program Manager and former Quincy Police Department captain.

Derrick Elias

Three other candidates were scheduled to be interviewed on September 17. However, only two were interviewed after candidate William Proctor sent a letter to the board, formally withdrawing himself from consideration, citing a hostile hiring process.

Proctor, who is also a county commissioner in Leon County, accused the Gadsden County Deputy Clerk of Courts of making statements on social media that “distressed” Proctor. Further information on those reported statements has not been released.

The remaining candidates to be interviewed on September 17 were Derrick Elias, former mayor and current commissioner of Quincy; and Auburn Ford, former Midway City Manager.

During the hiring and interview process, a number of concerns about the process were brought up by some of the commissioners.

Eric Hinson, Brenda Holt, and Chairman Anthony Viegbesie each specifically voiced concern about the fairness of the process, claiming candidates being interviewed on the second day had a chance to better prepare for the interview questions that candidates who were interviewed on the first day.

Commissioner Gene Morgan said he understood the concerns, but given the current restrictions, the board was conducting the hiring process in as fair a process as possible.

Morgan made a motion to select Derrick Elias as the new county administrator; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Sherrie Taylor.

This sparked discussion among the commissioners, with Holt saying she wanted to wait until the process could be looked at and changed to be fairer before hiring someone. She called the hiring process “improper” and “incorrect.”

Holt said any vote she made against a candidate that night would reflect on the candidate, but on the hiring process.

Chairman Viegbesie echoed this sentiment, saying any vote of “no” on his end would also be a comment on the process, not the candidate.

Taylor said that she wanted the process to be completed that night because of the extensive delays to the hiring of an administrator.

Morgan agreed, and said that to delay the hiring process any further would be the “last thing” the board should do.

The board then voted on the motion by Commissioner Morgan to hire Derrick Elias with Commissioners Taylor and Morgan voting “yes” with Commissioners Viegbesie, Holt, and Hinson being the naysaying votes.

Holt began to make comments about the board waiting until a fair process was developed in order to hire an administrator and advised that the board wait until November to make an official hire, saying “it’s just one more month.”

This line of discussion was met with protest by Taylor, who began to pack her things and leave the room. This display seemed to cause Commissioner Hinson to then quickly make a new motion to hire Derrick Elias, which was quickly seconded by Morgan.

Holt fervently argued that there was no need to vote immediately and to let Commissioner Taylor walk out if she wanted to walk out. She said the board needed to work together and it wouldn’t “kill anyone” to wait another day or two until another meeting to vote. This argument was not reciprocated by the other commissioners.

The motion to hire Derrick Elias then went to a vote and passed 4-1, with Commissioner Holt being the lone “no” vote.

Chairman Viegbesie directed staff to initiate the hiring of Elias and called the meeting to a close.