FORT LAUDERDALE — Bertha Henry has been selected as Broward County’s top administrator. If her contract is approved on Oct. 7, she will be the first black woman to hold the position.
After a year-long, nationwide search that cost taxpayers $23,000, Broward County Commissioners on Tuesday, Sept. 23 chose to promote from within for the position.
Henry has been the interim administrator since Pam Brangaccio resigned from the top administrative post in October 2007.
Commissioners selected Henry by an 8-1 vote. Commissioner John Rodstrom was the lone dissenter.
Some commissioners, including Stacy Ritter, disagreed with the decision to seek an outsider rather than promote Henry, who, Ritter and others argued, was the most qualified applicant because she already had years of Broward County government experience.
“I did not participate in the search process,’’ Ritter told the South Florida Times. “I chose to stay away because I thought it was a waste of time and money when we had the best candidate sitting right in front of us.”
Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin agreed, but said she believes the hesitation stemmed from Henry’s apparent lack of interest when she did not apply for the permanent position during her first tenure as the interim county administrator from September 2005 to July 2006.
“I would have had the conversation with her prior to consulting, but the majority of the members wanted to have an opportunity to expand the search,” Wasserman-Rubin said. “I wasn’t that concerned about expanding the search, but I would have been more concerned if she hadn’t applied.”
After an extensive search, the applicants were narrowed down to Henry, Susy Torriente, chief assistant Miami-Dade County manager, and Lee Trotter, deputy administrator in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.
Henry, 53, earns $244,000 a year as the interim administrator. The commission is expected to offer her as much as $270,000 for the permanent job if her contract is approved on Oct. 7.
As the county administrator, Henry operates at the behest of the Broward County Commission, and oversees the day-to-day functions of the county government. This past year, Henry has faced daunting challenges stemming from a $90 million budget cut, as well as the expansion of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
With a county budget of approximately $3.5 billion, Henry directs the operations of more than 7,000 employees in approximately 70 agencies, including Port Everglades and the county’s Transportation, Public Works, Planning, Environmental Protection, Economic Development, Emergency Services and Libraries divisions.
A Florida native, Henry has previously served as assistant city manager for the City of Miami and the assistant county administrator and director of the Office of Management and Budget in Montgomery County, Ohio.
As an assistant city manager in Miami in the late 1990s, she was credited with helping the city turn a $68 million budget deficit into a $5 million surplus, according to The Miami Herald.
She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Florida State University, and is married to Westside Gazette publisher Bobby Henry.
Bobby Henry supported Rodstrom’s opponent, Carlton Moore, in last month’s election, a close race in which Rodstrom prevailed, according to published reports. Rodstrom said on Tuesday that he would support Bertha Henry only if she can demonstrate that she will treat all commissioners the same way, will show a sense of urgency and a new direction, and will not engage in politics.
Other commissioners held no such reservations, however.
“Call me selfish, but I would rather have someone who is familiar with us, who knows Florida law, who brings experience to the table rather than having to train someone from scratch,’’ Wasserman-Rubin said. “The firsthand knowledge that I have of her professionalism and ability to lead us put her on top from the very beginning.’’
Photo: Bertha Henry