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County hires, loses new administrator

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By Alice Du Pont

UPDATED 4:45 p.m. MARCH 26

Gadsden County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eugene Lamb said today that negotiations with Jeffery Naftal, who commissioners voted 3-2 March 24 to hire as county administrator, had fallen through.

Naftal, former city manager for Juno Beach until 2008, was one of five candidates considered for the position out of 100 applicants.

Commissioner Doug Croley, who was assigned to meet with Naftal to discuss specifics about the position, said they could never come to an agreement about the compensation because of all of the challenges faced by the county. 

Reached by telephone, Naftal said he didn't want to discuss the details but that he would send the chairman a letter by Friday and outline his reasons.

“We're going to move forward. It (hiring an administrator) should be at the end of the April 7 agenda," Lamb said. 

 

FROM THIS WEEK'S EDITION:

Gadsden County commissioners voted Tuesday night to offer the position of county administrator to Jeffery Naftal, former town manager in Juno Beach.

The 3-2 vote came after commissioners Sherrie Taylor and Brenda Holt asked to interview the top three of five candidates before making a decision. The two said they wanted another interview with the top three because they "had trouble" remembering the five candidates who were interviewed individually last Tuesday.

Of a possible 260 votes, Naftal scored 247 points. Robert Presnell, director of Gadsden County Public Works, scored 228 votes, Ronald McLemore of Winter Springs scored 207 points, and Johnny Williams of Northport, Ala. and Walter Munchheimer of West Palm Beach each scored 196 points.

There were a total of 100 candidates for the position, which was advertised Dec. 23, 2008 through Jan. 31.

"I want to thank Mr. (Arthur) Lawson and Mr. (Bud) Parmer for getting us five quality candidates,' said Commissioner Gene Morgan, before making the motion to offer the position to Naftal.

According to his resume, Naftal had served as town manager in Juno Beach since 2005. He was fired from his position as manager in Juno Beach in August by a 3-2 margin.

"Personality is very important in a small town like Juno Beach," said council member Bill Greene, who voted to fire Naftal, according to the Palm Beach Post. Greene was quoted in the Post as saying that one of the reasons Naftal was fired was because he made a negative impression on local residents.

The Post also reported that supporters of Naftal praised his ability to complete projects. Naftal was astute at finding state and federal grants, according to Juno Beach Vice Mayor Linda Hodgkins, who supported Naftal.

"Nafal did a wonderful job. But there was a faction beating on him. They won," Hodgkins said in a Post article, adding "that's politics."

His major accomplishments were to restore operational functionality and efficiency to multiple departments and he rewrote the town's personnel policies. He implemented a town-wide Wi-Fi network with service access for residents and a public safety site for police, and he oversaw the completion of multiple, multi-million dollar projects. He also said he changed Juno Beach's performance evaluation system to more accurately reflect and reward performance, increased services while maintaining staffing levels, and upgraded police mobile computing system using the new Wi-Fi network.

Juno Beach is located in northern Palm Beach County and has a population of approximately 3,500. The town’s population is 95 percent white, 3.5 percent Hispanic and less than 2 percent black and other nationalities. The median income per household is $65,500.

Prior to working in Juno Beach, Naftal was assistant city manager for the cities of Hallendale Beach and Surfside.

"I feel I can offer Gadsden (County) an administrator who meets and exceeds the traits and experiences being sought. I have high ethical standards and expect the same from my staff. I think outside the box and can bring fresh ideas to current and future issues. Budgets that I have have been responsible for have no fat; funds are expended because they are needed, savings occur through thoughtful purchases and senior staff is always conscious of their responsibility to the taxpayer," Nafal wrote in his cover letter to commissioners.