Firm outlines process for new county administrator search

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners heard a proposed timeline Tuesday for the search for a new county administrator from a representative with the firm conducting the effort.

Mike Humphal, with South Central Service Cooperative of North Mankato, led the previous search for an administrator that resulted in the hiring of former Administrator Candace Pesch.

Pesch was hired in November for the position, and the board voted 3-2 to terminate Pesch in April. Because the search firm’s contract provided a two-year guarantee, Humphal will provide another search for the county at no additional cost.

Email newsletter signup

He said though he recognized the commissioners would want the new administrator quickly, he thinks it would be best not to rush the search.

He wanted to meet with the board members individually to talk a little closer about what they would like to see in the next administrator, as well as spend time with individual staff management members.

“I’m kind of getting the sense we didn’t have a good enough feeling of what you all wanted,” he said.

He estimated making sure everyone was on board with what the firm would advertise on May 16 and 17 and then start to advertise the position May 18 and accept applications for at least 30 days. The position would be advertised both regionally and nationally.

Applications would be reviewed through July 7 with the group narrowed down to four finalists and an alternate, and interviews scheduled in early August and then conducted in late August.

He discussed a two-day interview process with meetings with staff and the public on the first day and interviews on the second day.

After the new administrator is selected, there is typically a few days of negotiation, and then someone would typically be able to start 30 to 60 days after that.

“We want to take our time and not rush this and make sure we’re getting what we want,” Humphal said.

Fourth District Commissioner Chris Shoff questioned the length of the timeline and said he was hoping to have the new administrator in place in July, particularly because of the budget process. He said the proposed timeline seemed like a long time.

Humphal said the timeline was just a proposal and was fluid as needed.

Fifth District Commissioners Nicole Eckstrom asked whether the firm would consider going back to the other three candidates who were not selected from the previous search, and

Humphal said it would depend on what the commissioners thought about those candidates.

Humphal said the board also needed to consider what salary range to post the job at. In the previous search, the job salary was between about $117,000 and $155,000.

The board at a special meeting last week divided up some of the responsibilities of the administrator to current employees, and there is nothing in place yet for an interim administrator.

Board members asked whether the department heads thought they would be able to perform the additional duties until the new administrator is hired.

Highway Engineer Phil Wacholz said while he thought a month or two would be OK, six months would be more of a challenge.

County Finance Manager Pat Paquin said whatever happens, he just wants someone to be selected for the long-term. In the 10 years he has been with the county, there have been four administrators.

The board extended the agreement with South Central Service Cooperative through Oct. 31, 2023, for the search.

In separate action, the board approved having two commissioners, two department heads and an outside professional HR representative to be part of the committee to review applications for the new Human Resources manager for the county.