CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Charlotte County Economic Development Director Don Root was fired last Wednesday after he lashed out at a member of the Industrial Development Authority during a committee meeting.
Root said he was frustrated after losing a potential deal to bring a major employer to the county, adding to a long list of recent companies who have backed out at the last minute. When the topic surfaced during the meeting, Root stepped outside to compose himself. A committee member came out and said "just go get another one," and Root lost it, he said.
Root becomes the seventh county department head who was fired, resigned or retired since late January, including former administrator Roger Baltz, who was pressured by commissioners to resign last week.
"It's a personnel matter we're not willing to discuss at this time," Interim County Administrator Ray Sandrock said. "I came to the conclusion we had to make a change. Economic development remains one of our top focuses."
Root was given the option to voluntarily step down by todayThursday and accept a basic severance package. He hasn't decided if he will agree.
"I think I did a helluva good job, and brought this county an awful long way," Root said. "But in my job, you have to win. I don't want to blame anyone. So many times we thought we won, and it turns out we didn't. There's reasons for every one of them, and I'm frustrated. We were close to doing some pretty remarkable things."
Since getting hired as economic development director in October 2007, Root spearheaded efforts to form the IDA, the Economic Charlotte Enterprise Council and Charlotte's temporary Economic Development Working Group. He successfully passed several business incentives through the County Commission, including an ad valorem-based tax exception for relocating employers, which will be on the Aug. 24 primary ballot.
He also led a heavily scrutinized effort to draw a group of Abu Dhabi-based developers to Charlotte in a deal that would include Murdock Village. After the county invested about $30,000 in the effort, the developer pulled out because the agreement was about to go public. One of the company's partners was a convicted felon, which drew concerns from many commissioners.
The latest deal that went belly up was sought to create up to 700 new jobs by luring a yacht manufacturer to Englewood.
"This certainly came as a shock to me," Commission Chairman Bob Starr said. "I had some questions about Don but it never rose to that extent. I wasn't looking for his head. I'm not looking for anyone's head."
Until Wednesday, Root hadn't had any incidents of misconduct or actions that required disciplinary measures. He earned about $120,786 last year, according to public records obtained by the Sun.
Before joining Charlotte, Root spent five years as the economic development director in St. Lucie County, where he helped garner 417 new jobs. Commissioners attribute much of his lack of success in Charlotte to the economic downturn.
"It's unfortunate," Commissioner Robert Skidmore said. "I think he tried. He was definitely a dreamer."
County administration will begin working toward appointing an interim director this week.
From our partners at the Charlotte Sun.