By Cheryl Blackerby

The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District has been without an executive director since mid-August, and the search may not begin anytime soon. 

Former executive director Bob Langford told the board in late 2011 that he was going to retire. In March 2012, he gave the board a formal notice that he would leave Sept. 20, 2012, but quit working in mid-August because of illness.

As yet, commissioners have not discussed a job description for the replacement, how and where to advertise the opening, how much the position should pay, or when the search should begin in earnest.

The board’s attorney, Arthur Koski, has filled in as executive director since August, with the board voting to give Koski an interim stipend for executive director duties for six months from Aug. 15 to Feb. 17, payable at $5,000 per month in a lump sum of $30,000.

Besides handling responsibilities as the board’s legal counsel, Koski has had to take on an eclectic range of other chores — including overseeing budgets, making sure burned-out bulbs were replaced on the Sugar Sand Park carousel, solving softball traffic jams at Spanish River Park, and looking into protective netting around lacrosse fields. 

The need to get the ball rolling for a new executive director has occasionally come up at meetings but with little interest in moving forward. At one meeting in the fall, Commissioner Susan Vogelgesang said the board needed to start the search because the interview process could take months.

In December, chairman Earl Starkoff said the board should wait until the new commissioner, Steven Engel, started in the new year. But in January, Koski suggested postponing discussion of an executive director until after negotiations on two inter-local contracts concerning Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and the city’s scheduling of athletic fields. 

The taxing district was started in 1974, and had no executive director until 1998 when the position was created and given to Langford, the district’s accountant.

Until the mid-1980s, representatives of the city sat in the position, not as director but more as administrator, said Koski. “Those people were usually head of parks and recreation departments and they prepared the agendas and interacted with the commission.” 

Langford and Koski handled the administration duties until Langford became executive director.

Langford’s duties as executive director, said Koski, included directing and supervising the administration of the district; preparing and submitting annual budgets; deciding the salaries of any employees; preparing reports to the commission on finances; and conducting the day-to-day activities and interaction with the city.

“Because he was the CPA, he was able to handle the establishment of annual budgets and assessment of taxes, and hold public hearings for adoption of budgets and millage rates,” said Koski.

Koski wrote a job description in the fall, but commissioners said they didn’t know what they were looking for, except that the candidate probably wouldn’t be a CPA. The board has discussed hiring a CPA to do work separate from the executive director. 

At the Jan. 7 meeting, commissioners agreed with Koski that they should postpone the search until after inter-local agreements are in place. 

But Commissioner Robert Rollins emphasized the need for a director. “We’ve all picked up slack ourselves and we’re doing a little more than we would have and it’s taken a little bit longer because we didn’t have an executive director to cover some of the areas best done by him.” Speaking to Koski, he added, “And let you do your job on contractual issues and giving legal advice.” 

“Should we all submit qualifications we think would be good?” Vogel asked.

“We have to determine what qualifications are important to us at what salary range,” said Commissioner Dennis Frisch in exasperation. “We couldn’t put a bid out right now if we had to because we have no idea what we’re asking for and what we’re willing to pay.”

Starkoff had the last word. “When we think we’re ready, then we have to do a formal exercise of what qualifications do we think we need for the environment that person is walking into. And until then I think there’s no need to go forward with this topic until we get these inter-locals done.”

“The wheels of government grind slowly,” said Koski. “We should be looking (for a candidate) by early April.”  Ú

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