A poll of Manatee County voters found a majority prefer county government hire more employees from the private sector. That includes the position of County Administrator, which could open up soon as the county navigates a recent scandal.
A polling memo released by McLaughlin & Associates found 54% of Manatee County voters favor hiring more county employees who worked in the private sector, while 33% prefer those with primarily government experience.
Those results came after pollsters briefed participants on the job of county administrator. Those polled were given four choices. A plurality of 39% said the county should hire a private sector businessperson who operates a business in Manatee County, with another 13% favoring a hire with experience in a Fortune 500 company.
On the government side, 27% of those polled favor an internal hire of someone already working within Manatee County Government, and 12% would like an applicant with government experience but who comes from outside the organization. Pollsters combined the private sector and public sector choices for the top lines.
Republicans in particular favor a private sector hire, 64% compared to just 20% who want government experience. Independents also lean that way 60% to 28%. About 56% of Democrats prefer a county hire compared to 33% who like private sector experience.
It’s unclear who commissioned the poll. The memo was released to “Interested Parties.” McLaughlin & Associates is based in Alexandria, Virginia and has an office in Miami.
The poll, conducted on Feb. 3 and 4, was taken as Manatee County debates the future for County Administrator Cheri Coryea. Shortly after new county commissioners were sworn in following the November elections, County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge made a motion to dismiss the county’s top staff executive. But Coryea in December appeared to survive that ouster attempt.
But Coryea’s future came into doubt again last month when another new Commissioner, George Kruse, moved to fire her. He did so after admitting to an extramarital affair, and Commissioner Carol Whitmore, in an informal meeting organized by Coryea’s office, informed him she knew of the affair. Kruse said in a county commission meeting he believed that was part of an attempt to blackmail him for his vote on issues in the future.
The Commission will vote Feb. 17 whether to terminate Coryea.
Notably, the McLaughlin poll found about 35% of Manatee County voters were already aware the county was considering firing the county administrator. That includes 41% of Democrats, 36% of independents and 30% of Republicans.
The poll also evaluated favorability for the commission. About 48% of voters approve of the job done by the board, while 29% disapprove and 23% declined to answer or said they were unsure. Ratings were largely consistent across party lines.
Curiously, the poll also evaluated opinions on a single issue. Pollsters found voters disapprove of a recent decision to spend $10 million on a new pet center “when other critical infrastructure needs have yet to be met.” About 60% disapprove of that, while 29% approve. The decision was particularly unpopular among Republicans, with 70% disapproving.
The poll included responses from 400 voters who were registered to vote in the November election. Pollsters report a 4.7% margin of error.