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Weaver confident as Horry County considers administrator contract

The Horry County Council could decide as soon as Friday on a contract offer for interim county administrator John Weaver that could make him the permanent administrator.

An ad-hoc committee of four council members appointed Tuesday night will meet in executive session during a break in the county's spring budget retreat Friday to discuss terms of a possible contract. The group that includes Chairwoman Liz Gilland and councilmen Gary Loftus, Paul Prince and Carl Schwartzkopf will then report back to the full council, who will try to hash out any changes in another executive session the same day. If they can reach an agreement, Gilland said an offer could be made to Weaver Friday.

"I wanted the ad-hoc committee to really take time to formulate an offer that we would be comfortable with, which will likely include salary and the length of the contract," Gilland said. "We'll then take it to the full council in executive session. When we get something that will satisfy a majority of the council, then we'll [come out of executive session and] make a motion to offer the contract to Weaver."

The council deadlocked Tuesday in a 6-6 vote on whether to hire Weaver over the other finalist, former Oconee County administrator Dale Surrett.

The council then voted unanimously to negotiate a contract with Weaver before offering him the position. Weaver will not be a part of Friday's contract talks despite being at the budget retreat, Gilland said.

The move was touted by several council members as a way to maintain control over the contract terms, which will include salary and initial length of service. Weaver said during his finalist interviews with the full council that he would prefer a three-year initial contract with the option to continue the agreement and a salary of about $167,000. Weaver said Wednesday that he still feels he is the best candidate in the pool of applicants.

"I continue to be convinced that a local person who has knowledge of the politics, the character and the economy would be the best fit for the position. I do not profess to be the best local applicant, but I am the only one," he said. "It would take several years, whether you came to Horry County from Florida or Oconee County, no matter how good you are at your job, to get up to speed.

"With the budgets that we are facing, among other things, I believe a local candidate would be the best option."

Neither Weaver nor many of the council members wanted to talk about contingency plans if an agreeable contract could not be reached. Several council members said they would cross that bridge when they get there.

Weaver's contract to serve as an interim administrator ends on May 31, the day before a public hearing on next year's budget. Weaver said Wednesday that he did not want to speculate about whether he would continue his service if he was not chosen, saying no offer had been presented to him as of Wednesday.

"Nobody's mentioned anything about what happens if," said Loftus.

"I think that's a positive sign. If nobody's thinking past the point of getting together with Mr. Weaver to negotiate, then maybe people are in the mind set that we can come up with an offer that's acceptable for everyone and move forward."

The S.C. Association of Counties surveyed county administrators in 2007 about their contracts.

Kathy Williams, assistant director of administration at the association, said that of the 39 counties that answered the survey, 27 administrators had written contracts, four had a supervisor form of government, and eight administrators did not have contracts.

"The majority of the counties with administrators not working with a contract were smaller counties with the exception of two and in those counties, the administrator came up through the ranks," Williams said. "It's a different situation when that person is an attorney because they probably have a different mind set. The national and international professional association for administrators strongly encourages job applicants to request contracts. It's pretty standard at this point."

Williams said the average contract regardless of the size of a county or city is three years. According to the association's annual wage report, S.C. counties of a similar size paid their administrators between $197,911 in Greenville County and $106,818 in Sumter County. In Charleston and Beaufort counties, the administrators are both paid more than Weaver mentioned in his interviews at about $174,000 and $168,000 respectively.

Weaver could choose to accept an offer as soon as Friday, try to negotiate the terms, or decide to reject the contract offer.