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South Carolina county names new administrator

June 9, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Richland County, South Carolina has a new administrator in place.

The county in a news release Friday announced the hiring of Leonardo Brown. He is scheduled to start July 15.

Brown has led Smith County, Texas, a county of 250,000 residents with a budget of $250 million, for the past eight years, The State reported. The Shreveport, Louisiana native also worked as that county’s director of human resources and was an area manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He holds a Masters of Business Administration from LSU-Shreveport.

“Mr. Brown’s background well exemplified the skills and qualities county council was looking for to lead this organization,” Council Chairman Paul Livingston said in a statement.

The South Carolina position has been vacant since April 2018, when the council voted to fire former administrator Gerald Seals. Seals said the vote to terminate him was illegal and led to a $1 million settlement for the ousted leader.

Interim administrator Edward Gomeau resigned in February after four months on the job. The council then appointed the director of the transportation department, John Thompson, as acting administrator.

Brown was one of four finalists for the job announced by Richland County last month, three of whom are currently county administrators somewhere else.

The main challenge Brown will take up in Richland County is the penny tax road improvement program approved by voters in 2012.

Richland County’s $1 billion penny tax program has faced controversy in recent years. The county recently voted to cut ties with a private partnership that had been managing the improvement program. The county has said it can save $4 million by managing the program in-house. The South Carolina Supreme Court also ruled that some of the penny tax money was improperly spent and suggested the county may be ordered to pay it back.

A county official has suggested up to $3.4 million may have to be paid back.

Brown has experience managing a road program. In 2017, Smith County voters approved a $39.5 million bond package, according to the Tyler Daily Telegraph, part of the Texas county’s $100 million long-range road plan.

Richland County is South Carolina’s second-largest county, with more than 400,000 residents, and has a general operating budget of $164 million.

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Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com

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