A top Smith County official has accepted a position as administrator of Richland County, South Carolina.
Leonardo Brown, who is Smith County’s administrator and human resources director, is scheduled to start his new role on July 15, according to the Associated Press.
Brown has worked for Smith County, which has more than 227,000 residents, since January 2009 and became county administrator in October 2014.
“Leonardo Brown is a genuine example of a leader of character who has proven himself time and time again,” Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said Sunday. “Though I am saddened by his departure from Smith County, I am thrilled for him personally to have such an excellent opportunity in a larger community.
“South Carolinians are soon to find out what we in Smith County, Texas, have known for years — Leonardo Brown is extraordinary in both his personal and professional life, and he will make an indelible positive mark on their community in the coming years, just as he has on ours these past 10 years.”
The Shreveport, Louisiana, native also worked as an area manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He holds a Master 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,” Richland County 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, part of the 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.