In a split vote on Tuesday night the county council decided to rethink the council administrator position. Member Nelson had placed the item on the agenda after a discussion with chairman Kelley.
The county advertised this position and had begun interviewing candidates after the firing of former council administrator, Garth Day. The previous council began the process, but current council members were included.
It was then decided to delay action until the new council members had taken office. This position had been a continual item of discussion from candidates running for the county council, sometimes with significant emotion.
With the exception of Member Kippen and Chairman Kelley, the council members were inclined to rethink the position. Nelson made a motion to discontinue the process of recruiting the current posted position and the council split their vote with five in favor. Members Kippen and Chairman Kelley opposed. Member Kippen said, “I feel that this is a position that is needed. Unfortunately this is a position which has been tainted...We do need to have someone here as a council administrator.” Kippen reiterated the role that the administer had played in coordination between the departments and in support for the council. She also reminded the council of the limitations placed on them from the form of government. The form of government specifically prohibits the council from being involved in the day to day operations of the county. It establishes their role as oversight and legislative.
Member Nelson then proposed that the council revisit the position and determine the scope and pay. Many other council members echoed this sentiment. Member Mathews said, “For some time now I haven’t been an advocate of the council administrator as was previously in place here in the county. First of all, the title of administrator has a negative connotation to it, as well as I think a lot of elected officials and department heads felt that the person who previously occupied this position was meddling in issues that he really didn’t have authority to be involved in...We need a person to do some day to day chores without meddling in everybody else’s activities...Do I think it is a $77,000 salary with $30,000 in benefits? No I don’t.” Member Mathews also said that he had reviewed other county governments in the state and had found that more often other councils had a secretary or administrative assistant rather than a council administrator.
The council voted on the motion from member Nelson to explore a new role and salary for the position and all voted in favor except member Kippen.
Nelson had originally proposed that the council take no action on this position until May. Other council members did not want to put a specific time line on the decision, particularly one so far into the future. They determined to explore the position and move forward as soon as the council members were ready to make decisions.
Chairman Kelley commented, “I feel we absolutely need somebody to coordinate the efforts in the county... when the efforts are coordinated in a manner that is consistent with county government, we can accomplish a lot of things on lesser dollars. There does need to be someone here on a daily basis and I believe that the form of government restricts the involvement that the council members can have.
In talking to member Nelson I agree that the new council needs an education... It took the old council two years before they made the decision to go ahead with the decisions they made to create that position.”
The council members will now begin the process of deciding what the new role will be. If this council follows the pattern of the previous council it will be a number of months before the members understand the full time commitment from their positions. It may be that their feelings will change as a full understanding of the role of the council develops. Support for the position by council members seems to be in direct relation to how long they have served in their position or had exposure to the role. Time will tell what direction the council will take, but the wind seems to be blowing away from a decision for a council administrator and towards an administrative assistant for the council.