New Collier manager revamps county staff

County Manager Leo Ochs.  David Albers/ Staff


County Manager Leo Ochs. David Albers/ Staff

— The new Collier manager is restructuring the upper tier of county government.

Last week, County Manager Leo Ochs, Jr. sent out an internal memo announcing some major duty reassignments. He started by eliminating the deputy county manager position that he vacated a few months ago.

Ochs was named county manager Sept. 29 when Jim Mudd announced his retirement due to illness. The changes Ochs laid out last week will help strengthen the county structure “and help us cope with the difficult challenges that lie ahead,” Ochs wrote.

Ochs replaced former county manager Jim Mudd, who resigned Sept. 29 and asked county commissioners to hand over the reins to Ochs. They agreed.

In the past two years, county officials have laid off or furloughed employees.

For several months over the summer, Joe Schmitt, the Community Development and Environmental Services division administrator, closed doors to the public on Fridays to conserve staff time.

Starting Jan. 1, Schmitt will move over into Ochs’ office to “help develop and direct the county’s economic development outreach efforts and other special projects of strategic importance to the organization,” Ochs wrote.

It was not immediately clear what Schmitt’s new title would be, but transportation planning director Nick Casalanguida will direct Community Development and Environmental Services “pending further decisions on divisional realignments that have yet to be finalized,” Ochs wrote.

Schmitt and Casalanguida are two of the county’s more public employees.

John Torre’s duties will be expanded.

While continuing to direct the county’s Corporate Communications and Governmental Affairs department, Torre will take over management of legislative affairs and intergovernmental relations. That was a job performed largely by Debbie Wight, who was Mudd’s executive assistant. Wight will work with Torre.

At the same time, Ochs wants to expand the county’s role in economic development activities, and Schmitt will become involved in those efforts, Torre said.

One of the first things Schmitt will do is look at economic development and recovery, Schmitt said last week from Washington, D.C., where he was attending a ceremony at the Pentagon.

“I’ve been doing this for eight years and it is time to move on,” said Schmitt, who was a finalist for the Lee County manager’s job this year.

Commissioner Jim Coletta said he thinks Ochs’ changes will be good for everyone.

“Leo’s looking out for the best interest of the county. Joe Schmitt has been a wonderful administrator and we love him dearly but sometimes it’s a good thing to switch people around,” Coletta said.

Mary-Jo Brock moves up as Ochs’ executive assistant, while Mike Sheffield will retain his title of Assistant to the County Manager. (Brock is not related to Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock.) Executive Assistant Judi Bodine will retire next month, Ochs wrote.

Realignment of financial responsibilities moves Mark Isackson from the Office of Management and Budget to oversee Corporate Financial and Management Services, which will include agency operations oversight, organizational development and financial planning.

Kim Grant also moves over from Office of Management and Budget to direct Corporate Planning and Performance Improvement including strategic planning, business process improvement management and performance metrics and reporting.

No one has received a raise, Torre said.

While the reorganization news was still circulating throughout the community Friday, outgoing Collier Building Industry Association president Tom Lykos was aware of Schmitt’s new role.

“We think the new county manager has a vision and (Joe) is part of that new vision,” Lykos said.

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