Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom says he can do it.
The 59-year-old politician says he can oversee the county and it’s total $3.5 billion budget and at the same time he serves as chief operating officer of Nova Southeastern University, which has a growing campus and some 29,000 students. He says he began a physical transformation that began when he was 40, the same year he was elected to the commission that has brought his weight down from 210 to 185 pounds and his heart rate from 90 beats a minute to 55. And he puts almost all his energy into his work.
“I have held two full-time jobs for 25 years,” says Rodstrom, who currently serves as a managing director at Sterne Agee, a municipal investment firm. “I’m a type-A personality. I’m at the gym at 5:15 in the morning five days a week. I don’t get home until 8 p.m. and sometimes I’m still on the phone when I walk in the door. I sleep less than most. I’m driven. I work all the time. I know how to manage my time and I don’t waste my time.”
Maybe so, but I think this idea of serving both the county and the heavily politically connected private university is dead on arrival. Even if he can do both jobs effectively — he collects a $92,000 salary from the county and would likely make about a quarter million dollars or more in the Nova job — the two positions conflict in such a way that if Rodstrom does get an offer from Nova, he would need to choose one of those masters, not both.
Rodstrom says he doesn’t see a conflict with the two jobs, but it was just such a conflict that forced him to announce that he was seeking the job at Tuesday’s commission meeting. The county was voting on whether or not to spend millions more on its partnership with Nova on a library on the campus. Rodstrom says he didn’t want to have to announce that he was seeking the job along with 200 other applicants, but he knew he was legally required to do so.
When I asked him about all the other conflicts his job would entail, Rodstrom said he believed the joint library was the only one. Not so. A quick bit of research showed that the county has facilitated at least $60 million in tax-exempt bonds for the heavily leveraged university, had contracted the university for various studies, and had given millions for a marine biology study. That’s just what I found in a 15 minutes.
The truth is that Nova has used its political connections and lobbyists to influence the county to help it on numerous occasions — and don’t expect that to change. Taxpayers need to be represented as fairly as possible in these decisions and having a veteran and savvy commissioner like Rodstrom on the Nova payroll, abstaining or not, doesn’t seem tenable. Bottom line: He should withdraw his name from consideration.
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