The H.R. Doctor Is In
Two-Timing in Gulf County
HR Doctor recently returned from a pleasant visit to Gulf
County, Fla., under the auspices of the Small County Technical
Assistance Program of NACos partner, the Florida Association
Most counties, cities, or school
boards, for that matter, are small jurisdictions. They are not
Los Angeles County, Cook County, New York City or Miami-Dade
County. They look a lot more like Gulf County in size and
organization, if not in geography.
Gulf County, like thousands of
others in the United States, is a small county with fewer than
25,000 residents and under 200 county employees. The size may
be small but the needs for help, support, and a knowledgeable,
ethical, and hardworking staff is every bit as important there
as it is in a giant public agency.
Florida Association of Counties, led by Mary Kay Carisco, and
its affiliated Foundation and Technical Support programs, led
by Vivian Zaricki and Jim Parrish, represent a great tool for
the smaller agencies to get the help they need under
circumstances they can afford.
the case of Gulf County, County Administrator Don Butler
struggles daily to meet the needs of a growing population, to
balance growth with preserving the counts lifestyle, beaches
and forests while looking for ways to meet growing
infrastructure and economic development needs. Sound familiar?
Of course it does. How can the county afford more sheriffs
deputies, improve roads, meet court costs, human service
needs, planning capability, etc., etc?
Close and collaborative
relationships with city governments, school boards, and the
state and federal governments, as well as private-sector and
nonprofit organizations combine to help elected officials see
policy options. This situation also unifies public agencies no
matter how big the jurisdiction.
immediate goal over the course of two workshops was to assist
with supervisory and management development and to help the
elected officials focus on their policy-making roles rather
than succumbing to the temptation to micro-manage. However, an
underlying goal was to demonstrate support, on behalf of the
Florida Association of Counties, for effective, ethical and
Upon arrival in Gulf County, the
hotel clerk went out of his way to politely tell me that I was
on Eastern Standard Time. Frankly, despite staying in many
hotels over the years, this was the first time anyone had
pointed out the time zone I was in. I initially thought this
was very odd, but came to find out that Gulf County has two
time zones, which split the county. Part of the county is on
Eastern Standard Time. Another part of the county is an hour
earlier on Central Standard Time.
This presents public
administration with some unique challenges. For one thing,
even Microsoft Outlook, which millions of us use to regulate
our lives by keeping our calendars, is unable to cope with the
situation. It isnt enough to arrange a staff meeting at 10
a.m. It becomes necessary to say "Thats 10 a.m. your time!"
or "Was that 10 a.m. my time?"
Imagine the amazing public
service that could be rendered by paramedics or sheriffs
deputies when they respond to an emergency call and arrive
nearly one hour before the problem ever occurred in the first
place! Talk about an amazing response time!
the other hand, think of how confusing it is to receive a call
involving a possible heart attack only to arrive nearly an
hour after the call was first received? In these conditions,
the need for staff members to write and speak very, very
clearly becomes even more important. Staff needs to be
exceptionally careful when deadlines are involved É to pay
taxes or fees, to record documents, to apply for a job, etc.
The hotel clerk was providing excellent customer service by
making sure I knew what time it was.
While every public agency has
something unique going for it, I must say that the sunset over
the Gulf of Mexico as well as the warm hospitality and
friendly people more than made up for the fact that Gulf
County lacks a giant shopping mall. Friendly, caring staff
members, such as Denise Manuel, who is a one-person Human
Resources Department, are common to public agencies all over
Even though it is easy to get
two-timed in Gulf County, it is also easy to look back at a
pleasant visit with wonderful people and the hope that the
assistance provided helped this small county see a big
Best wishes no matter what zone
you are in!
The HR Doctor