Delta County to discuss requirements for administrator post
ESCANABA — Despite approving a contract with Interim County Administrator Ashleigh Young earlier this month — prior to the contract’s creation — the Delta County Board of Commissioners did not vote to sign the document Tuesday, but set a special meeting to discuss the job description for a full-time administrator.
“I don’t know what’s in it, but it’s an awful lot of pages that I need to research. I’m not for it, I’m not against it, but I need to study it,” said Commissioner Steve Viau, who made the motion to table the contract’s signing until the April 4 meeting.
There was some disagreement about the board’s prior actions on the contract, which was first presented to the commissioners five hours before Tuesday’s meeting. Young, County Clerk Nancy Przewrocki, and the minutes approved by the board for the March 7 meeting all indicated that it was the terms of the contract that were approved earlier this month and not the contract itself.
“The terms, the points, were approved on March 7. They were applied to the contract that was written by Nancy,” said Young.
However, the motion made by Commissioner Bob Barron at the March 7 meeting and approved by a 3-2 vote of the board, was “to accept the interim administrator’s contract.” The motion, which is preserved in the archived video of the meeting’s live stream on the county’s YouTube channel, was supported by commissioners Barron, Bob Petersen, and Dave Moyle.
When asked by Viau when the contract was actually written, Przewrocki indicated it was completed last week. The commissioners received the completed version around noon Tuesday.
“You approved the terms of the contract, and so I put it into the contract form using, using, the contract that we use for administrators, but putting in the terms that were approved on the 7th,” said Przewrocki.
There was little discussion from the board as a whole about delaying the contract’s signing, but Viau’s motion was approved unanimously.
Agreeing on a job description for a full-time administrator, however, proved a more complicated task, as the board was split on whether or not private sector experience was comparable — or even preferable — to experience in the public sector for the county’s future administrator.
Viau and Commissioner John Malnar, who both sit on the county’s personnel committee, came to the meeting with a job description that would require a master’s or bachelor’s degree in public administration or a related field and five years of relevant professional experience in public administration or a public supervisory capacity.
“The public administration part was the most important because there’s a lot of issues in public policy and dealing with county business is very different than private business, and they need to follow the right procedures so our county is protected with somebody that has that type of experience,” said Viau, referencing research he had done on the subject and noting that a master’s degree in public administration was “entry level qualifications” for county administrators.
While Malnar was in support of the job description put forward by Viau at the meeting, the remainder of the commission balked at the requirement for government experience and the length of experience needed for the position.
“If you’re in the private sector you do have to deal with a little bit of regulation and it’s coming from the government sector, so it’s not a lowering of standards. I think it’s broadening, broadening the field,” said Barron, who also noted he felt requiring five years of relevant government experience blocked potential applicants.
Petersen also expressed concerns over the government requirement, arguing the county would be better served by a candidate from the private sector.
“Somebody coming out of the private sector not only has to deal with governmental issues but they have to be keeping a profit coming in, keeping the business solvent, and I see that, in my own opinion, as an advantage over coming out of the government sector and not having this experience,” he said.
Moyle repeatedly suggested the language be amended to include a clause indicating applicants should have five years of experience or a length of experience considered “adequate” by the board. The suggestion failed to gain traction with the other commissioners.
“This is urgent to me, but I also want to take my time and make sure we get the best candidate possible, and if this first round doesn’t turn out the best candidate we can always start from square one again and lower the requirements that the county wants,” said Viau.
Moving to what he described as “Plan B,” Viau suggested the county explore the candidate testing options and advertising services available through Michigan Works! to find a candidate and referenced a number of materials from human resource professionals outside the county that he had sent to the rest of the commission Tuesday afternoon.
“Where we’re at a disadvantage here, we probably have a potential in-house person that’s going to apply for the job, and human resources is your number one person you go to, but there would be a conflict of interest,” said Viau, referencing Young’s role as the county’s human resources director.
Young holds bachelor’s degrees in administration and accounting. She has been employed with the county since 2020, and has held no supervisory or administrative roles. Prior to her hire as the county’s controller and human resources director, she spent five years as an accountant in the private sector.
Because the commissioners hadn’t had enough time to review the additional documents provided by Viau, the commission voted unanimously to hold a special committee of the whole meeting on March 28 at 5:15 p.m. Developing a job description for the administrator’s position will be the only item on the agenda.
As no votes are taken at committee of the whole meetings, the commission intends to vote on the acceptance of the language that comes from the March 28 meeting at the regular commission meeting on April 4.