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Lee County interim manager candidate Meurer vows to deal with tough issues

Nov. 1, 2012
Meet Douglas Meurer, interim Lee County manager ca...
Meet Douglas Meurer, interim Lee County manager ca...: Douglas Meurer, current assistant Lee County manager and interim county manager candidate, speaks about his view of county government. Video by Michael Braun
Douglas Meurer

About Meurer

Name: Doug Meurer
Age: 61
Childhood home: Colorado
Family: Divorced, two children


Douglas Meurer, candidate for interim Lee County manager, said he would not shy away from dealing with issues facing the county such as the fallout from Medstar while a search is conducted for a permanent leader.

Meurer, 61, assistant county manager in charge of public works, is one of two candidates in contention for the interim post. The other candidate is Estero Fire Rescue District Commissioner Bill Williams.

Meurer said if selected to temporarily oversee the county, he would make whatever decisions were necessary to keep things running.

“Even an interim manager we’ll have to make decisions like any county manager would,” he said. “I think we can’t stop dealing with the issues. It is clear that we need to keep things moving.”

Meurer said issues such as public safety stemming from the recent Medstar debacle and the county budget need to be dealt with.

Medstar, the county’s medical flight program, failed to meet federal safety mandates for close to a year and county officials charged patients for about $3.3 million in violation of federal rules.

County Manager Karen Hawes left the county last week to the tune of $250,000 in severance pay and other benefits after she shut down Medstar.

Meurer said he would stand ready to do anything, hiring or firing, if needed.

“I would focus more on the hiring side,” he said. “I don’t have any plans to do any reorganizing.”

Meurer joined Lee County government in 2006 and has been involved over the years in many aspects of the county’s operations. He has overseen the county’s negotiations with baseball teams, including a deal to renovate Hammond Stadium for the Minnesota Twins and efforts to bring the Washington Nationals to City of Palms Park.

Don Stilwell, former Lee County manager from 1993 to 2009, said he worked with Meurer during his tenure. Stilwell said Merurer was hired by Jim Lavender, the former Lee County public works director.

“Doug is very reasoned, very professional and low key,” Stilwell said. “He’s a strong professional who could step in.”

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He said, though, it will depend on what qualifications the commissioners are looking for, a difficult job given that it could change in a couple weeks when the board gets two new commissioners. Stilwell declined to list just what those qualifications could include.

Prior to coming here, Meurer spent 31 years in the private and public sector as a civil engineer.

He said his experience in civil engineering included working as a private consultant with municipalities and states on issues ranging from water resources and infrastructure to transportation and the environment.

“I’ve been a business owner and an executive in private companies,” he said, adding that he has been involved in negotiating at many levels from contracts and projects to things as simple as office space.

He said his negotiation for the county on baseball issues was only to the point of getting information together and then letting the commissioners give the yes or no.

“We get all the facts and then give that to the commissioners,” he said.

Meurer, the county’s former utilities director, said a few of the commissioners asked him to put his name in contention for the interim post and said that he is not interested in taking the job full time.

County Commission Chairman John Manning said he hopes to have a new manager in six months.

Commissioners Ray Judah and Frank Mann voiced support for Meurer at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting.

Judah gave the motion to put Meurer’s name in contention and Mann spoke at length about Meurer’s qualifications.

“You won’t find anyone more highly respected than Mr. Meurer. He’s always deliberative, always fair. He’s slow to anger, in fact, I’ve never seen him angered,” Mann said. “He’s the epitome of someone you want to wrap that warm comfortable blanket around your little group here and ease through the critical period.”

On Wednesday, Commissioner Tammy Hall said the person who gets the interim position needs to be able to handle the job as if they were the permanent manager.

“We’re not looking for someone to keep the status quo,” she said. “We’re looking for someone to do what the county manager could do.”

Hall declined to be specific on qualifications. She said she and the other commissioners would be discussing what qualifications were needed for the interim post but that they would be closely tied to what the county charter outlines for the permanent manager.

Commissioner Brian Bigelow said the county needs to look to senior staff outside the top tier of county management for a temporary replacement.

“I think it would exacerbate the management problem we have and that is the upper tier,” Bigelow said. “If we want more of the same problems we have today than Mr. Meurer is your pick.”

Bigelow said whoever takes the interim post needs to swear that they will not accept the permanent position and they will not be involved, in the selection of a permanent county manager.

Connect with this reporter: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook) @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter)

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