Supervisors to name new administrator; Huckelberry expected to get permanent job
Arizona Daily Star
Chuck Huckelberry has held several jobs in his 20 years with Pima County, ranging from engineer to interim county administrator.
The Board of Supervisors will vote tomorrow to give Huckelberry permanent status as county administrator.
The move officially scraps the national search Republican Chairman Mike Boyd insisted on having when Huckelberry was brought in three months ago to replace Manoj Vyas.
"I advocated a national search then because I did not think there was a local candidate not beholden to one supervisor," Boyd said. "However, it's obvious that Mr. Huckelberry is able to get along with all supervisors. He's not carrying anyone's water or, rather, he's carrying all our water."
Boyd credits Huckelberry with stabilizing the bureaucracy that he said was badly shaken by Vyas and his many reorganizations.
For Supervisors Raul Grijalva and Dan Eckstrom, Democrats who worked with Huckelberry in their previous term, Huckelberry has been a welcome change if only because he has restored the access to his office and staff that Vyas had cut off.
"He's been treating our office and Dan's office with a degree of equality and respect that's a real change," Grijalva said.
The Democrats consistently criticized Vyas for answering only the Republican majority -- Boyd, Ed Moore and Paul Marsh - that put him in office 14 months ago.
And Grijalva and Eckstrom said they never believed the county would start a national search - the second since 1989 - to get a top administrative officer.
"I really don't think there was ever any intent to have that process," Eckstrom said.
"The idea of a national search - it didn't have a lot of feeling behind it," Grijalva said. " I was more concerned with removing Manoj from authority."
Vyas remains. He took a $50,000-a-year pay cut to $55,000 and now works on special projects.
Huckelberry will likely get at least $121,000 a year, under a contract to be presented to supervisors today. The contract also will force full payoff of his salary if supervisors fire him before the end of 1996.
Only Moore is opposed to giving Huckelberry a contract.
Few are surprised that Huckelberry's three-month performance won him support for the permanent assignment.
His three-month list of credits includes:
* Resolving several disputes with Democratic Assessor Alan Lang. Huckelberry has boosted administrative control over the Assessor's Office. While the Republicans and Grijalva conducted controversial hearings on Lang, Huckelberry minimized the circus atmosphere by keeping the assessor and county employees from sitting in purely for entertainment.
Huckelberry restricted attendance to only those people subpoenaed or involved. At one point, Huckelberry announced those who had testified must return to work.
* Mediating a pay raise battle with Sheriff's Department deputies and offering a compromise package that was approved last week.
* Preparing a plan to end the fight over the county's Municipal Property Corp. bond projects.
Huckelberry found ways to save the projects, including the Kino Recreation Center, while satisfying Moore's demand that they not be built with bonds voters had not approved.
* Alerting supervisors with a seven-month financial report that a one-time $20 million surplus had been drained and that spending could no longer outpace revenues if future deficits were to be avoided.
Huckelberry said last week that his budget for the 1994-95 fiscal year that begins July 1 is based on zero growth. Record construction will not appear on tax rolls for a year or two, he said.
* Devising a plan to evaluate the county Department of Environmental Quality's new air quality laws.
Huckelberry, 44, joined the old county highway department 20 years ago and at 29 became the youngest department head in county history. He has left his mark on nearly every county project, from roads and bridges to buildings and parks.
Along the way, he has earned praise from neighborhood activists and environmentalists, business leaders and developers.
He has been down this road before.
In 1989, he was in line to be interim manager and likely the new county manager when Jim Riley was eased out. Huckelberry had a majority sewn up through the weekend preceding the board meeting.
But by the time roll was called, Huckelberry's votes had evaporated and a fellow assistant county manager, Jane Verner, got the interim job.
Last year, Huckelberry was passed over by the Republican majority when it fired County Manager Enrique Serna and appointed Vyas to marshal a sweeping reorganization plan.
Vyas demoted Huckelberry and cut his pay from $101,000 a year to $85,000. Huckelberry lasted less than four months as head of capital projects in the Vyas regime before resigning to join a private engineering consulting company.
He was bitterly disappointed with Vyas' administration but praised the county work force as "one of the most competent, dedicated and loyal government staffs in Arizona."
Huckelberry is a career public service employee who gave up a lucrative job with Shell Oil after graduating with bachelor's and master's degrees in mining and civil engineering from the University of Arizona. He quickly abandoned the engineering firm last year to head Metro Water.
Even while away from county government, Huckelberry continued to respond to questions from all supervisors.