Archive for Wednesday, September 26, 2007

County mulls administrator duties

September 26, 2007

Leavenworth County commissioners have laid out a draft job description for the county administrator's position.

The document described the administrator as an appointed official with the "overall responsibility for the effective administration of governmental affairs of the county" that would act "as a liaison between elected county officials and the Board of County Commissioners."

Specific duties for the administrator would include recommending an annual budget, identifying individuals for appointment (who then could be officially appointed by the board), coordinating the administrative operations of all departments, supervising personnel, executing contracts and other documents and composing a policies and procedures manual for the board.

On the campaign trail, all three commissioners supported creating the position, which was nixed by Leavenworth County voters twice -- in 1998 and 2002 -- although Commissioners Dean Oroke and J.C. Tellefson ran on platforms saying they would bring the issue to a vote.

"I said I believe that we need this -- and I believe that we need this -- but I made a promise that we would put this to a vote," said Tellefson, the lone commissioner to vote earlier this month against removing the question of hiring a county administrator from the 2008 ballot.

Oroke, who opposed the measure in May, said at the Sept. 4 meeting that he had done a lot of "soul-searching" and thought it was "probably appropriate we create this position at this time."

Oroke also mentioned Thursday he would seek re-election in 2008.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber said he has always been an advocate for creating a county administrator.

"I have never wavered on my position," Graeber said. "There's nothing new on my part."

"We're involved in some massive projects," Graeber explained, noting -- among others -- County Road 1 improvements, Justice Center expansion, a new Emergency Medical Services station and countywide communication upgrades.

"We're involved in things that, quite frankly, I never thought we'd be involved in. I want to do the best job that we can, and I think with this position, and all the training and experience involved, we could do a better job for the people," he said.

Former commissioner and Leavenworth resident Louis Klemp objected to Graeber's claim.

"Don't belittle yourself," Klemp said. "You guys have the capabilities. ... You've got somebody that can handle each one of those (projects) that you mentioned."

Klemp further criticized the measure, saying he was not in favor of having a single point of contact for the county in the same way a city administrator or city manager is in municipal governments.

Robert Hessenflow, of Leavenworth, also spoke against the initiative, saying, "I'm very disappointed that the commission has decided to deny the people of Leavenworth County the right to vote."

Hessenflow also brought up the question of cost and how much additional staff would be needed to support the position. Tellefson said, however, he didn't think there would be a need for additional staff beyond the administrator.

"I really believe it's going to be between $75,000 and $80,000," Tellefson said, but later added, "We don't know what the cost is."

"There will be staff supporting this position," he said. "It will be the same staff that supports us (the commission)."

Graeber pointed out that by adding an administrator by resolution and not by a public vote, the position could easily be removed if commissioners found it to be ineffective. But if instituted by a public vote, Graeber said, the only way to do away with the position would be by another vote.

"This is a chance to test it, to see if it helps the commission ... (and) if it helps the commission work better for the people," he said.

Oroke said now is the time to get the ball rolling as it would take around six or eight months to advertise and fill the position.

"We need to start now," he said, "So we can have this person on board before we start the budget process next May."

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