TALLAHASSEE— The jobs of Leon County Commissioners are often considered to be part-time commitments with pay dictated by Florida statute. But is that an accurate depiction?
Vince Long, Leon County Administrator said the commission positions are not specified as full- or part-time in any Leon County charter, ordinance or Florida statute because the commissioners are not employees, they are elected officials. He said comparing employees to elected officials is like comparing apples to oranges.
However, these elected officials receive full health and employment benefits, just like full-time county employees.
Additionally, Long confirmed Leon County is not bound by Florida law to compensate county commissioners on a rate determined by population and spelled out in Florida statute (FS) § 145.031(1).
As of Nov. 5, 2002, Leon County is governed by a Home Rule Charter. As such, per Florida statute, commissioners do not have to be compensated based on population like other counties. Leon County determines for itself how the commissioners are compensated.
The Leon County charter says commissioners’ pay is determined by Leon County ordinance. The ordinance approved uses (FS) § 145.031(1) to determine pay, which results in county commissioners receiving annual pay of $ 75,829 each plus benefits, compared to Tallahassee city commissioners who make less than $40,000 per year. Leon County could change how commissioners are paid, by changing the ordinance.
Between the seven county commissioners, there are many different approaches to the fulfillment of their official duties.
District 5 Commissioner Kristin Dozier explained, “There is no specific job description. There are things we are absolutely responsible for, but whether or not you have time to serve on other boards and committees really is up to each individual commissioner to make that choice in whatever way works best for him or her.”
“There are a lot of different ways to do this job successfully. There is no one way,” she continued.
She resigned her position with Mad Dog Construction when she took office in 2010. “That was intentional. I didn’t want to have any conflict of interest, but also, they (Mad Dog) needed full-time work. The county pay is sufficient to make it my full-time job. I make it work for me. It does provide me the time to serve on more boards, like Innovation Park.”
Dozier continued, “I also understand, very clearly, that people come into the job with outside employment that they have to keep, like their own businesses or they have other responsibilities and they need to earn more. It is more unusual for it to be a full-time job and I understand that.”
“I think it’s whatever you make it,” she said.
Long said it is accurate for commissioners to say it is up to them whether it is a full-time or part-time job. He said this is not uncommon. He said throughout the state, other county’s treat commissioners similarly. “There is a whole lot of discretion,” he said.
Several of the commissioners have other outside jobs.
Elected in 2010, At-Large Commissioner Nick Maddox currently serves as the 2016-2017 Vice Chairman. Earlier this year, he also became the head of the Foundation for Leon County Schools. He now draws two public paychecks.
Commissioner Bill Proctor was first elected in 1996 and has continued his work at an instructor at Florida A&M.
Fort Braden School Principal Jimbo Jackson was elected to the commission in 2016 and continues his school duties.
District 4 Commissioner Bryan Desloge was elected in 2006. He is founder of Desloge Home Oxygen & Medical Equipment. He remained as president through 2013 and is still active in the business. Desloge was not available for comment, but his aide Brenda Tanner said good-heartedly, “I can tell you right now there is nothing part-time about what that man does.”
Commissioner John Dailey currently serves as the 2016-2017 Chairman and has served the citizens of District 3 since 2006. Currently, Dailey is President of JDA Strategies, LLC a public policy research and development consulting firm, where he is a consultant for the Florida League of Cities. He is also a licensed Realtor with the Ketcham Realty Group.
He said he is a full-time county commissioner, full-time consultant, full-time dad and full-time husband. He said it takes prioritization and time management as well as using technology to juggle his many roles.
“I don’t have to be behind a desk. I have 24/7 access to my constituents and staff. Things happen when they happen,” he said.
At-Large Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley was elected in 2012. She agreed with Dailey’s perspective on the office and explained it further.
“I really don’t think of it as a full-time job. I think of it as a way of life,” she said. “I think of it as a 24/7 job, not a traditional full-time or part-time job because I’m on a lot of different committees, in addition to the county commission.”
She described it as a “modern job” and explained a lot of work is done during the evenings, in the mornings, and the weekends too. She said she does a lot of her work from home or on her smart phone.
“You just need to think of it as a contemporary work life. As commissioners, we have tentacles into the community. We’re supposed to be out, talking with people. I don’t even know if it’s relevant to say if it’s part-time or full-time anymore. I don’t think it’s realistic to try to corner it that way,” she said.
“Our jobs are not sitting at a desk at the court house offices. That’s a really old-school way of looking at it,” she said.
“It is ambiguous. It’s an ambiguous kind of thing,” she said.
All the interviewed commissioners said they are fairly compensated for their work on the commission.
Dozier thinks it is good to discuss whether the county commission positions are full- or part-time even while stressing that commissioners choosing either course can do a great job.
“We talk about wanting to increase participation, whether it’s people running for office or engaging on different issues, whether you are a businessman or a college student. I think in the past (commission seats) were seen as part-time jobs and you were expected to have outside employment, but if we look at it in the areas where it’s not a full-time wage, that really limits the number of people who can run for office. So if you have a single woman working eight-to-five the city commission job (paying less than $40,000 per year) is not going to work for her.”
“I think there is a great conversation to have that you can do this job and be as engaged, (whether) it’s full-time job or part-time job,” she said, “but we may have more people willing and able to run for office if it is a modest living wage (like with the county commission).”