The Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District is transitioning to a new general manager, as its current leader plans to move to New Hampshire with her husband.
The wastewater taxing district's five-member board this week appointed Paul Christian, 47, as interim general manager. He will replace Margaret Blank, who took over from original General Manager Chuck Fishburn in 2011.
Blank 45, is a certified public accountant and an engineer. Christian, who has an associate's degree and an information technology background, said his lack of academic credentials will not impact his ability to lead the district.
Blank's annual salary is $125,000. Christian earns $102,000 a year. The district has not discussed what his salary will be as interim manager.
"My qualifications to be general manager for the district extend far beyond my experience at the district, just as Margaret and Chuck's qualifications to be general manager extended far beyond their degrees," Christian said in an e-mail Wednesday. "Both Margaret and Chuck accomplished great things in their tenures as general manager. I'm confident that the board's wisdom and foresight that I would continue that tradition is well placed."
Christian joined the district in 2010, when he was hired as chief information officer. The Columbus, Ohio, native served 10 years in the U.S. Army before working as an Internet provider salesman in 1996. He eventually started a computer consulting company, with which the wastewater district contracted in 2009.
Christian received an associate's degree in management information systems from Miami-Dade College in 2013.
Wastewater district commissioners said this week they are confident in Christian's ability to run operations, despite not having achieved the same academic accomplishments as his predecessors.
"Paul is a proven hands-on, go-to guy on the administrative side, i.e., information technology, customer service, budgets, rages, assessments, personnel, etc. He has earned his position," Commissioner Andy Tobin said in an e-mail.
Tobin said Christian will be helped by an able and proven staff.
"Dan Saus is a super qualified operator and enjoys the technical side of the business. This district also has a long-standing relationship with Weiler Engineering that has oversight of the plant on regulatory compliance issues," Tobin said.
Commissioner Steve Gibbs noted that Blank will work alongside Christian for 100 days, which will give him a chance to learn more about the job. The time will also give commissioners a chance to see if Christian is truly right for the job, Gibbs said.
"If it turns out we were mistaken, we have time to seek an alternate to Paul," said Gibbs, who is board chairman. "I am surrounded by four other commissioners with equal or better insight into Paul's qualifications. That is reflected in a 5-0 vote to place Paul in the GM position."
Tobin explained his and his colleague's decision another way.
"The president of an airline company is not unqualified to run the airline just because he or she can't fly a jet," Tobin said. "In our case, the board has made sure that each of our managers, including Paul, has a co-pilot, and a couple of navigators just to make sure that everything flushes when it should