Glades County’s ‘new’ manager is a familiar leader

MOORE HAVEN — Glades County finally has a “new” manager, but it’s a comfortable fit for the commission and entire county staff including him — not a difficult negotiator living in another state as their top pick turned out to be.

Public Safety Director Bob Jones — the deputy county manager who’s been acting in the lead role since last spring when an interim manger was dismissed before his probationary period was over — was given the job on a 3-2 vote of the commissioners at their regular meeting Oct. 28.

The county board did not even contemplate hiring their top finisher in manager searches both in 2018 and ’19, Jennifer James-Mesloh, a city manager on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Glades County Commission Chairman Tim Stanley reported, “I will tell you that we have negotiated and negotiated and we have finally come to terms. You guys have seen the contract. I know there’s some stuff going around about her present job. I’ve got a text here from her if you want me to read it to you that provides her side of the story on that, but…”

At that moment, Commissioner Donna Storter Long interrupted him. “Mr. Chairman, I would like to make a motion to hire Bob Jones as our county manager and stop negotiations with any other candidate.” Commissioner Donald Strenth immediately seconded.

Commissioner John Ahern, the past board chairman who worked with Mr. Stanley for two months to arrive at a deal with Ms. James-Mesloh, queried him, “What are your feelings? Are you satisfied with where we’re at?”
He answered: “Most of the accusations that are against this lady … they haven’t proved anything against her. So it’s basically … from one disgruntled employee that got fired that has a vengeance against this lady. And I believe this lady. She’s willing to offer you to call everybody that she’s ever worked for to give references … or she’ll provide you with any documentation whatsoever. So it’s up to the board. This contract is written very, very strict. If she doesn’t work out, there’s nothing that she can do to the county. But I believe that with her experience and everything, it’s worth a try.”

Commissioner Long said her motion was based wholly on how well things are going, “regardless of anything that’s happened anywhere else. I think that Bob’s doing an excellent job. We know that this would not be forever. He’s got a retirement schedule here in … maybe five years, Bob?” Laughing erupted around the room (it’s well-known that Mr. Jones wants to retire sooner).

Mr. Stanley said, “And I have no objection to Bob being the county manager, but I just know that with this Airglades (international airport cargo facility) coming in, we need somebody that’s going to be in that seat that can meet these people and greet them and be able to answer the questions that are going to have to be asked.”

Mr. Strenth piped up: “Bob has been around this area long enough. I think he fits in rather than bringing an outsider in…”

Mr. Stanley pointed out that Ms. James-Mesloh “is a fifth-generation Floridian” and Mr. Ahern added, “She’s from here. She worked in Florida a lot more than she worked in Michigan.”

Mr. Strenth countered that Glades County is “a unique place, not like other counties with the same population. She didn’t impress me that much.”

Mr. Stanley called the question. The vote was 3-2, with himself and Mr. Ahern signaling “nay.” “Bob, you are now the new county manager,” the chairman said.

Commissioner Ahern quickly added, chuckling, “And Bob, you have my full support. It’s not that. I was supporting the efforts that the chairman put forth in negotiating the contract.”

Mr. Jones said, “If that’s what you all want, I accept the job.” He said later that he did not need a contract as commissioners discussed his status going forward, but they voted unanimously anyway to formalize a salary increase for him to $100,000, retroactive to the beginning of fiscal 2020 on Oct. 1, and a mutual 30-day-notice clause for termination of employment.

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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