Hillsborough County Assistant County Administrator and Chief Financial Administrator Bonnie Wise will replace her boss, County Administrator Mike Merrill, after he retires June 30, the Board of County Commissioners decided Wednesday.
Wise will take over with an initial two-year contract.
Her promotion came after debate about whether Merrill’s contract should instead be extended through the end of the year, contemplating whether a change mid-pandemic was a good idea.
County Commission Chair Les Miller, who himself is retiring after his term is over early next year, argued putting someone in place during an unprecedented health crisis to be forced into “on-the-job training might not be the smartest move.
Merrill has been leading the county’s coronavirus response as a non-voting head of the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group.
Other commissioners agreed, but ultimately decided, after protracted debate and a failed effort extend his contract until the end of September, on an in-house promotion to alleviate disruption.
Mariella Smith was the only commissioner to vote against Wise’s promotion, arguing instead she should be hired on an interim basis as the county conducts a national search.
The commission voted 6-1, with Smith voting no, to end its already underway national search.
Merrill has served as County Administrator since 2010. He earns just over $282,000 a year. The County Administrator serves as the county’s chief executive, overseeing day-to-day operations and the county’s more than $6.6 billion budget.
Commissioners lauded Merrill’s decade of service in the county’s top un-elected job with Miller saying he’s done “more than an excellent job.”