Children's Board of Hillsborough County extends job search for new leader

03/07/13 Janelle Irwin
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The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County is re-opening its search for a new leader. Wednesday, after narrowing down a field of 200 candidates to just five applicants, the firm charged with finding a CEO was granted 30 more days to bring more qualified executives to the table. Renee Narloch is the Vice President of Bob Murray and Associates.

“The more we have to choose from, the better off we are. Along the way we may get down to folks that their salary is too high or maybe we have two candidates who are really great candidates and one comes with a really high price tag and the other doesn’t – it gives us some room.”

The short list of candidates so far includes Felicia DeHaney, head of the National Black Child Development Institute; James Farrelly, head of the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando counties; Kelley Parris, director of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention; Mary Jo Plews, executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties and Clara Reynolds who heads the group Success 4 Kids & Families. The board made clear that expanding their search doesn’t mean those candidates aren’t good enough for the job.

“It really just has to do with making sure that we have qualified people that we have some flexibility to be able to have a good selection, be able to have a wide enough pool to pick from.”

That’s Hillsborough County Commissioner and Children’s Board member Kevin Beckner clarifying why Narloch wants to expand her search. Narloch told Beckner she doesn’t plan to advertise the position again and the move won’t cost the board any more money.

“I would like to re-visit some of my recruitment efforts already because there were people in that process that chose not to apply at that time and I want to re-visit it let them know it’s still open, make sure that they understand that there is no internal candidate. Ms. Pam Iorio does not want this job. She’s not slated for this. In case that was a perception, I want to overcome that. I didn’t hear that from anybody, but I want to make sure.”

Whoever the board hires will replace former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio who is currently serving as the board’s interim CEO. Narloch said many of the candidates who chose not to apply did so because they were happy in their current positions.

“They were having fun doing what they were doing, they were in the middle of major initiatives or projects and they wanted to see it through – they kind of had ownership in their current roles.”

Mayor Iorio stepped in after the agency’s former head Luanne Panacek resigned amid questions about her handling of contracts, finances and employees. Her resignation was tenured after she anointed the office in holy oil in hopes of rejuvenating morale. Narloch said she plans on using Iorio’s knowledge of key players in the area to find more local candidates to fill the position permanently.

“If it were someone else other than Ms. Iorio, I probably wouldn’t even suggest that to keep it clean.”

Narloch referred to concerns presented by Hillsborough County School Board member Doretha Edgecomb that involving board members in the recruitment process may taint the process.

“I wouldn’t want the perception to be one that anybody’s name that we might suggest, even to you, is foreseen as a forerunner in this process or the person has some up, extra points if you will. I really want this to stay clean, fair and very transparent.”

But Children’s Board member Pete Edwards wanted to take another look at three candidates who were eliminated from the hiring pool. He argued that the board should be able to put it up for a vote – something he said had been decided in a previous meeting. His motion to do so died for lack of a second. Fellow board member John Evon suggested instead that Edwards look for answers.

“If you feel that way Pete, it’s more “Renee, why didn’t that person make that list?’ If you have a person on that list, give us the name, give her the name and find out why that person didn’t make the list – easier than bringing them in bringing them in and saying well, we’ve got to vote on them.”

The board expects to choose a candidate at its April 25th board meeting with a contract negotiated by May 3rd. Prior to that, the board will set a date to interview finalists. Those interviews will be open to the public. The company conducting the job search will now do background checks on the five candidates already selected to move through that process.

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