February 21, 2020

MML recruiter meets with community leaders to develop profile for county administrator search

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WEST BRANCH — In preparation to begin the search for a county administrator, Michigan Municipal League Executive Recruiter Jerry Richards met with community leaders around Ogemaw County to develop a community profile which will serve as a guide to identify potential candidates. 

Richards held two meetings Thursday, Jan. 9, first with Ogemaw County department heads and employees, then with community leaders including elected officials from municipalities around the county. Richards said he previously had a similar meeting with the Ogemaw County Board of Commissioners, and is currently taking the information gathered during those meetings to develop a profile for the ideal candidate, which will be included with advertisements for the position as well as help guide his vetting of applicants to develop a short list of candidates. 

The commissioners voted 3-1 to hire MML at an approximate cost of $21,000 to conduct a hiring search for an administrator to oversee county departments during their Nov. 14 meeting last year. Commissioner Ron Vaughn cast the dissenting vote and Chairman Bruce Reetz was absent from the meeting. Vaughn told the Herald he supports the idea of hiring a county administrator, but could not justify voting for it until the county balances its budget.

Included in the candidate search is the construction of a digital brochure for the position, creation of an advertising strategy and reviewing and screening the list of initial candidates drawn from a national search. MML will also help with the final phase of hiring, including extending a conditional offer of employment and providing a contract template. Commissioner Craig Scott previously told the Herald MML will reconduct the search at no additional cost if the selected candidate does not work out during a probationary period. 

Richards said development of a community profile is integral to the administrator search process.   

“I’ve done I think 25 searches, but the league has done hundreds of searches. This is the process we use for all of our searches,” Richards said. “I got some good input from the three meetings I had.” 

During the meetings, the county was characterized as having tightly knit small-town communities with rich histories and deep-seated feelings of hometown pride and appreciation for community events such as the county fair, parades and Victorian Art Fair. Attendees also discussed the governmental bodies in the county and the public perceptions and expectations surrounding them, the types of skills, experience and personality traits an ideal candidate should have and the types of challenges and opportunities the incoming administrator will face.  

“That info, particularly about the skills, experience and personality type, will all go into the writeup when we advertise the position,” Richards said, adding that the community profile compiled from the meetings will be provided to the commissioners this week for review before being used to develop an advertising strategy. 

Richards said he plans on being ready to begin the search by the end of January. The application period will last four weeks, and he said it will take around 10 days to sort through the applications. Once he has a list of promising applicants, he said he will perform phone interviews to vet potential candidates and create a list to present to the commissioners. 

“As the applications come in, it’s my job to review those and do interviews and check references before I present that information to the county board of commissioners,” Richards said. 

During the meetings, Richards also discussed the purpose of the administrator position to attempt to clear up misconceptions.

“Typically, one of the responsibilities (of the administrator) is to work with each department to put a budget together,” Richards said during the meeting with department heads and staff. “In a lot of ways, this position will act as sort of a go-between between the operations and the elected officials who are responsible for the budgets. The administrator will work both in terms of working with each department — particularly on budgets and rationale for why you need to either hire more people or need different equipment and that sort of thing — and also providing information, explanations and reports to the commissioners both on the budget and on overall operations.” 

Richards further explained to department heads that the administrator will serve as an advocate for the needs of their departments. 

“There is — with the right person in the position — the ability for that person to work to have the commissioners better understand department operations and why things are being spent the way they’re being spent and why things are being done the way they are, and for you folks to be able to have — in addition to yourselves — somebody who can assist on how to present information and basically be another advocate for whatever you’re looking to do,” Richards said.  

One of the attendees of the meeting with community leaders was Rose City Mayor Dave Reasner, whose position includes the types of roles a city manager or administrator typically fulfills. He said he sees the addition of a county administrator position as an opportunity for positive change, referring to West Branch City Manager Frank Goodroe as an example of how beneficial having the right type of person in an administrator role can be. 

“It gives you one more perspective that is neutral,” Reasner said. “He or she will be more administrative than political.” 

Reasner said while there was a lot of debate at the meeting about the necessity of a county administrator, he felt the overall tone was positive. 

“I think most people were on board with it,” Reasner said. “One of the biggest concerns was where is the money going to come from to pay for an administrator.” 

A variety of concerns were also voiced, such as whether the county departments and commissioners will follow the recommendations of an administrator once the position is filled, but Reasner said the meeting served its purpose.

“It was more about a profile on what kind of person he or she needs to be — works well with others, able to take criticism — that sort of thing,” Reasner said. “It was a long way to get there, but I think it was very productive.”  

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