HART Board will hire interim replacement for outgoing CEO position

  • Outgoing HART CEO Phillip Hale says a hefty raise won't be enough to stop him from leaving the agency

A month after learning that HART CEO Phillip Hale intends to step down later this spring, board members today discussed the idea of hiring an interim replacement rather than a full-fledged successor within the next few months.

"There are three major uncertainties that impact our decision," HART board member Fran Davin said today. Specifically, she was referring to the possibility that the agency's mission could change later this year, after officials with the county's Economic Development Policy Leadership Group recently discussed the idea of choosing HART to lead the county financing and building road, rail and other projects.

There is also the possibility of a merger with PSTA, Pinellas County's transit agency. Legislation promoted by state Senator Jack Latvala on funding studies about a possible consolidation have occurred the past couple of years, and Davin said the latest might not be known about that until the upcoming legislative session ceases in May.

And then there's also the Greenlight Pinellas referendum that Pinellas County voters will decide on in November, which could lead to the creation of a light rail system in the Tampa Bay area . With so many uncertainties, she said, it would be a prudent decision to make an interim selection.

"There are too many variables that we're just not too sure about," seconded Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman.

Then again, the board may not have a choice. Michael Stephens, HART's Chief of Business Enterprise and Safety Officer, said that after putting out a request for proposal for a national recruiting agency, it could take anywhere between six and nine months to recruit a top-notch replacement. Hale is expected to leave sometime in May. And he said today he is not willing to stay longer.

"It would be pretty tough to bring in some high-quality people right now," Hale said. "The real concern is that the job description for the current CEO position will change regardless over the next year." He said that he was recently asked if he would stay on the job for a bit longer if his $150,000 was bumped up to $200,000.

"I wouldn't stay for $500,000," he said, prompting laughs from board members.

He also said that if the board were to go the interim route, they needed to decide whether to hire someone from operations, human resources project management. "If it was me, I would go with operations."

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said regardless of how long it will ultimately take to choose a new CEO, the agency must make sure they've done all they can to hire the best. "I want us looking everywhere to find the best person to lead this agency," he said.

The full HART board will resume discussing the issue next month.

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