Twice in this NFL offseason we have seen some high profile splits between teams and their star quarterbacks. The first was Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams and the second is playing out each day between Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. What each of these incidents has in common is they both had a definitive breaking point, be it a poor game performance against a rival or a player taken in the draft.
On Wednesday, the Chronicle reported a public split in Citrus County when Assistant County Administrator Steve Lachnicht announced June 4 would be his last day on the job. I believe that like the NFL examples, a definitive moment exists that led to this outcome.
I don’t know Lachnicht well having only talked to him at length at a town hall in Beverly Hills shortly after he was hired and briefly before commission meetings after that. However, I would say his administrative talent is much closer to Aaron Rodgers, a three-time MVP and Super Bowl champion, than he is to Jared Goff who is generally regarded as a B or B- quarterback, which makes his resignation a loss for the county.
Before I get to the definitive breaking point, I want to address some questions that will arise. The first is the question of impropriety given the abruptive nature of the exit. Anyone who has met Lachnicht even for a minute would know this is an absurd allegation to consider as he is nothing but ethical. The second question would be who is to blame for the falling out? Is it County Administrator Randy Oliver? The county commission? Citrus County lifestyle? The answer is most likely the fit. Sometimes jobs are just a bad fit at the fault of no one but circumstance.
Bad fit explains the singular instance that acted as the breaking point. In late March, Lachnicht argued in front of the BOCC in favor of raising the impact fees. It’s unclear how much of an impact his advocacy had on the final vote to raise the fees, but it did get the discussion started in that direction.
I believe this went against his belief of how administration should work and ultimately led to his decision to move on from Citrus. Two competing philosophies exist in this structure of our local government.
The first is that the commission, as the elected representatives of the people, should set the agenda for the staff to execute.
The second is that the administration, who is involved with the day-to-day operations of the county, should set the direction of the county for the commission to approve or change.
My feeling from our brief interaction is that Steve believed in the former, and it’s widely accepted that Randy leans toward the latter. Thus I think that Steve acted against his own philosophical beliefs when he presented on impact fees with the purpose of getting them raised, and while he was successful, it wasn’t the way he wanted it to happen. This was the breaking point.
Oliver’s quote from the Chronicle story lends some credence to this idea as he expressed the county needs someone “more assertive” in the position. This appears to indicate Lachnicht’s preference to receive orders from the commission rather than steer the commission toward the staff’s direction.
The question will now be what the county does moving forward. Commission Chairman Scott Carnahan, who I reached out to, said he was misquoted in the Chronicle about wanting a fresh face and rather the truth is that he feels institutional memory is important. I agree with him.
We can look at this position as not a QB in the NFL but rather as a chief operating officer and a chief executive officer. The COO is typically in charge of the internal operations while the CEO is the public face of the organization.
In Citrus, it is backwards. Oliver wants to be the County Administrator for the autonomy and the prestige, both of which he has earned as an incredibly accomplished individual, but he’s far more interested in the internal operations than being the public face of the administration.
Steve Lachnicht is an elite administrator, but so is Randy Oliver.
What the position needs isn’t another administrator but rather a communications professional who can explain the county’s direction both to the county commission and to the Citrus County residents. The Concurrent is sorry to see you go, Steve, but happy you will find a better fit elsewhere.