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Big Accomplishments Lead Commissioners to Consider New Contract for Administrator

Savings in medical insurance, success in saving money and national recognition for programs prompt commissioners to ask county administrator to reconsider retirement.

Big successes last year prompted the new chairman of the Manatee County Board of Commissioners to ask Ed Hunzeker, the county's administrator, to reconsider his retirement next year and negotiate a new contract with the county.

Hunzeker was clearly taken off guard by the suggestion and by the commissioner's overwhelming support for the idea and the glowing comments from the board. Hunzeker, who earns nearly $170,000 a year, would likely get a pay raise to offset the money he would lose by leaving the drop program.

"I'm honored," he told commissioners, the emotion evident in his voice. "I will be happy to talk to Commissioner Bustle."

Hunzeker, 65, said that while he was planning to spend more time with his grandchildren, he realized that his mentor didn't stop working until he was 90.

His mentor is his father, known around the county as "Big Ed."

Commissioners discussed extending Hunzeker's contract after the county administrator presented the State of the County address to the board. In his discussion of the county's 2012 accomplishments and goals for the coming year, Hunzeker shared an impressive list.

The county save $4.3 million in its health insurance premiums after county employees lost 5.4 tons — nearly 11,000 pounds — and as a result saw a drop in cases of Type II diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Those cost savings allowed the county to pay for local services.

The county received national recognition for the program and was even featured on a television episode of "The Doctors." The county was also nationally recognized for adopting the county's No Kill resolution for its animal services.

In December the county acheived an 84 percent save rate. The county's goal is to reach a 90 percent save rate. Manatee was the first county in the state to formally adopt the No Kill philosophy.

In addition, the county completed the first phase of the Wares Creek dredging, a project that has been decades in the making. The county has also expanded Robinson Preserve, reaching an agreement to add 150 acres to the park.

As the county looks to the future and faces more budget issues, decides how it wants to grow in the future and decides employee issues, the commissioners asked Hunzeker to consider getting out of the state's DROP plan and postponing his retirement.

Hunzeker entered the state's DROP program when he turned 62. The program, which allows participants in the state's retirement system to put away five years of retirement savings into an account that will be paid out in one lump sum, requires them to sign up before they turn 63 to be eligible.

He was expected to retire Aug. 31 of 2014 and his son has even been planning a golf trip to Scotland for September of 2014. And while he might not want to cancel plans yet, Hunzicker should warn him not to spend any money on the trip yet.

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