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Baker, LaRocque among 12 finalists for Weisman’s job

Two senior Palm Beach County government executives are among the dozen candidates under consideration for the county administrator’s job held by out-going Robert Weisman.

Verdenia Baker, who has served as Weisman’s deputy for 14 years, and Shannon LaRocque, who oversees Palm Tran as assistant county administrator, are still in the mix after a selection advisory committee chopped a massive field of candidates from 80 to 12 last week.

The executive search firm assisting the county will vet the 12 candidates and present its findings to the advisory committee March 11. That committee — whose nine members were appointed by Palm Beach County commissioners, the Economic Council and the League of Cities — is then expected to whittle the list further and present it to the county commission, which will select Weisman’s successor.

The 12 candidates still under consideration have extensive experience in government, the business world and in higher education. Nearly all have experience in city or county government.

That the initial field of candidates was so vast likely speaks to Palm Beach County’s weather, its strong financial condition and the job’s salary – Weisman, who retires in August after 22 years on the job, makes $259,140.

Standard and Poor’s recently gave the county’s debt a AA+ rating, one notch below the highest rating offered by the agency.

Baker started her career with Palm Beach County as a budget analyst. After 31 years with the county, she says in her cover letter that her tenure “has enabled me to develop a deep knowledge of the County’s operations, its personnel and its culture.”

She added that her “contributions confirm my ability to communicate effectively with diverse members of the community, to skillfully handle controversial issues, effectively direct staff, and make correct decisions that withstand public scrutiny and the test of time. Most importantly, I have also earned the respect and trust of my co-workers, peers and elected officials.”

LaRocque also has an extensive history with Palm Beach County government, having served as an assistant county administrator for the past decade.

She has nearly three decades of experience in both the private and public sectors.

“I have acquired invaluable experience in areas critical to running a multi-million dollar public entity,” she wrote in her cover letter.

While LaRocque and Baker are well-known figures in Palm Beach County, commissioners will be learning more about the other candidates for the job.

There is Rebecca Bridgett, the county administrator for St. Mary’s County in Maryland. Marge DellaVecchia is deputy county administrator for Camden County in New Jersey. Thomas Himler is deputy chief administrative officer for Maryland’s Prince George’s County.

Bruce Romer, vice president for Westat Inc., is the former chief administrative officer for Montgomery County, Md. John Pulomena is the county administrator for Middlesex County, N.J., and Michael Rogers is the vice president for advancement at the University of the District of Columbia.

Two people among the dozen candidates are from New Mexico: Jarvis Middle is deputy county manager for Bernalillo County, and John Murphy is city manager for Hobbs.

Murphy, an Air Force reservist, filed suit against Radnor Township in New Jersey when officials there did not hire him as town manager in 2009. His suit, where he alleged that his military commitments were used against him, was unsuccessful.

News accounts indicate that members of the Radnor Township board were displeased to have gotten a call from Murphy’s brother, then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Jane Shang, deputy city manager for El Paso, Texas, is also a candidate for the job. News reports from Texas indicate that she was a candidate for the city manager’s job in Des Moines, Iowa. Those reports indicate that she was placed on paid administrative leave after relations between her and some elected officials in El Paso became strained.

Patrick Salerno, former city manager in Coral Gables and Sunrise in South Florida, has applied for the county administrator job. The Miami Herald has reported that Salerno resigned unexpectedly from his Coral Gables position in April and that others noted tension between Salerno and city commissioners.

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