Transitions: Douglas County, NE; Frederick County, MD; Tuscola, MI and more

Douglas County, Nebraska (population 517,110): Douglas County Administrator Kathleen Kelley plans to retire at the end of January, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Kelley has been with the county for 24 years, 15 of them as county administrator. She started her career with the county as its ombudsman. Kelley, who will be 66 in December, said she wants to pursue other interests and spend more time with her six grandchildren. She said she would like to remain involved in public policy and be part of the political process. But she does not plan a run for political office. In particular, she said, she loves that the county deals with marginalized populations, including the mentally ill, the incarcerated, the frail elderly and the poor. Kelley said she was glad to be a main force behind two county bond issues — in 1994 and 1998 — that financed improvements to the Douglas County Youth Center and the Douglas County Jail. Both were overcrowded. County officials were able to show that to the public, and voters approved both measures by significant margins. Clare Duda, the county’s longest-serving board member, said he is Kelley’s biggest fan. That comes, he said, after having entered office 20 years ago campaigning against the ombudsman position, which Kelley held at the time. Kelley worked her way through the ranks and became interim county administrator after Dean Sykes, her predecessor, retired. Duda and former board member Kyle Hutchings paid to advertise in national publications to expand the pool of applicants for the administrator post. The board selected Kelley in 1998.

Lori Depies

Lori Depies

Frederick County, Maryland (population 233,385): Frederick County will get a new county manager as part of a major governmental restructuring, according to the Frederick News Post. The changes, announced Friday and effective Monday, do not include any layoffs, but will save the county an estimated $350,000 per year, largely by doing away with empty positions. The Board of County Commissioners signed off on the new personnel plan Thursday in a closed session. During their term, the sitting commissioners have taken aim at supervisory posts, getting rid of four director and seven deputy-director slots, according to county human resources staff. Commissioners President Blaine Young said elected officials are addressing the problem of having “too many chiefs” in county government. At about noon Friday, a press release broke the news that Lori Depies, the county’s finance division director, will replace David Dunn as county manager. The budget office, now part of the finance division, will follow Depies to the county manager’s office at her request. She said she was “thrilled and honored” when commissioners Thursday offered her the job of county manager. Dunn will step into a new position as the commissioners’ ambassador to community members, local municipalities and business groups. The post of commissioners liaison will fall under Depies’ oversight, and Dunn will take a pay cut. But Dunn said Friday that he doesn’t feel slighted. In fact, over the past two weeks, he helped Young craft the restructuring plan, he said. His efforts to reach area businesses and town and city leaders occupied much of his time as county manager, he said. As a liaison, he is more free to focus on the world outside Winchester Hall. Dunn was not reassigned because of poor performance, Young said, adding that the new role would fit his strengths. Depies will see a significant jump in her annual salary, from about $121,000 to $160,000, said Mitch Hose, human resources director. Dunn earned less as county manager, drawing an annual salary of $139,000. The difference in pay reflects that Depies will carry the added responsibility of overseeing the budget office, Young said. In addition, commissioners asked her to move to Frederick County from her home in Pennsylvania, according to Young. The shift in county manager was among a laundry list of changes approved Thursday. Not all were welcome to a couple of commissioners. Commissioner David Gray said he was in the dark about the brewing reorganization until the closed session, when the proposal was ready for a vote. Though the restructuring included some positive change, Gray said he voted against it, adding that he didn’t like removing supervisory positions. At some point, the cutbacks will result in an overburdened county staff, he said. Commissioner Paul Smith also voted against the reorganization, he said, because it eliminates a position in the TransIT services division. In the plan, TransIT moves under the umbrella of the citizens services division and will be renamed the TransIT department. Nancy Norris, assistant director of TransIT, will become acting department director, and her current position will be eliminated. Smith said he thinks citizens services is a good place for TransIT, because the move will foster collaboration. However, the Sept. 30 retirement of TransIT director Sherry Burford and the simultaneous disappearance of the assistant director post could strain the service, he said. He said he will continue to monitor the situation. The business development and retention division will be folded into the community development division and be renamed the business retention department. The division’s acting director, Helen Riddle, will man the helm at the new department. Erin White, now the accounting director, will shift to acting director of the finance division. The now-vacant post of assistant finance director will be eliminated, according to the county news release. The savings for the county comes partially by getting rid of the assistant finance director position, attached to an annual salary of $84,000, as well as the TransIT post, which came with yearly pay of more than $67,000, Hose said. Depies has headed up the finance division for the past year, and before that was the county treasurer. Dunn has served as county manager since last year. Before that, he was assistant county manager, and previously he was the Brunswick city administrator.

Tuscola, Michigan (population 55,729): Monday’s village council meeting in Milford could determine the future employment status of Caro City Manager Brent Morgan, according to the Tuscola County Advertiser. Morgan was offered the manager’s job in Milford, a village in southwest Oakland County. According to Milford’s Interim Village Manager/Clerk Deborah Frazer, the Milford Council has Morgan’s contract on their regular meeting agenda Monday. Morgan has been employed as the city manager of Caro since April 2010. After narrowing down the candidates to their top four, the Milford Village Council voted unanimously to offer Morgan the job at their Sept. 17 meeting. Frazer said the council was impressed with Morgan’s involvement with a village-to-city transition, Downtown Development Authority and the fact that he has served as an assistant city manager and then worked his way up to a city manager’s spot. For the past two weeks, Morgan and Milford officials have been in contract negotiations, as reported in several Oakland County newspapers. “The village’s original offer was an annual salary of $78,000 and 30 days severance pay, but Frazer said that Morgan counter-offered with an $84,000 salary and 180 days of severance pay,” according to Spinal Column, an Oakland County newspaper. “The Village Council answered with an offer of an $80,000 annual salary, along with 30 days severance for the first six months followed by 60 days afterwards, which Frazer said Morgan has agreed to accept.” If Morgan inks the pact that Milford is poised to approve Monday, he will fill the vacancy left by Arthur Shufflebarger, who died in June after serving as the village manager since 1990. Frazer has served as the interim manager and clerk since Shufflebarger’s unexpected death. Morgan was contacted by the Advertiser and refused comment on two different occasions. The Caro City Council’s next regular meeting is 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Newark, Delaware (population 31,454): Newark City Council on Monday hired longtime employee Carol Houck as the new city manager, according to Delaware Online. Houck has worked for the city since 1990. She began as a supervisor in the parks department, joining the City Manager’s Office in 1997 as assistant to the city manager. Raised in Philadelphia, Houck previously worked as a project and event coordinator for the Department of Defense at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Council had been deliberating between Houck and Tarron J. Richardson, a Wilmington native and current city manager in DeSoto, Texas. Issues of interest to Houck include shoring up Newark’s financial situation and improving its operations efficiency, extending UD’s electrical agreements with the city, improving security in the municipal building, increasing partnership opportunities with Newark schools, introducing technological advancements such as smart meters and developing more economic development partnerships.

Marysville, California (population 12,072): The Marysville City Council approved a contract for a new city manager on Tuesday, according to the Appeal Democrat. Walter Munchheimer, 64, director of financial management for Palm Beach County, Fla., from 2000-08, is scheduled to replace City Manager Steve Casey on Monday. The veteran administrator is a graduate of UC Davis and lists his hometown as Eureka. In addition to working in south Florida, Munchheimer previously served as deputy county manager for Fulton County, Ga., and assistant county administrator for Escambia County, Fla. Yuba County administrators conducted a national search for candidates several months ago on behalf of Marysville. County staff screened all but 10 for consideration, said Casey, who helped narrow the pool to five with help from Wheatland and Live Oak administrators. A panel of community residents selected by the council, and council members themselves conducted further interviews. Finally, they administered a written exercise. Munchheimer’s contract is nearly identical to Casey’s, including an annual salary of about $102,000. The city also will pay $4,000 in relocation expenses for the administrator to move from his home in Florida.

Henniker, New Hampshire (population 4,836): Henniker’s town administrator has resigned a year after taking the post, according to the Concord Monitor. Chuck Connell offered his resignation last week, and Selectman Kris Blomback said the administrator’s last day will be Nov. 30. Connell said he’s leaving for retirement and called his reasoning “both personal and important.” Connell joined the town staff in November after longtime town administrator Peter Flynn resigned in August 2011 to take a job with the town of New Boston. At the time, Flynn said he left with no hard feelings, but added that the job had become more stressful due to clashing personalities on the board of selectmen. The board accepted Connell’s resignation with “heavy regrets,” according to Blomback, who said the administrator had been a “consummate professional.” He said the board is in the process of establishing a subcommittee to help find a replacement, adding that Connell will be involved in the process. While Blomback hopes to have a replacement in place by Connell’s departure, he said the timeline may be difficult to meet.

Oakridge, Oregon (population 3,205): The city of Oakridge hired a new city administrator after what it calls an intense hiring process, according to KEZI. Police Chief Louis Gomez will take over the job. He’s been filling in since Gordon Zimmerman resigned at the end of last year. The city faced considerable financial issues under Zimmerman. Oakridge’s mayor says he looks forward to working with Gomez as the city works to rebuild.

Winnebago, Minnesota (population 1,437): Winnebago City Administrator Austin Bleess has submitted his resignation effective October 19th, according to KBEW.  Bless is leaving to become the City Manager in Caribou, Maine.  Austin Bleess said he really enjoyed his time in Winnebago and will miss a number of individuals that he met while being the City Administrator.  City Officials will now begin the process to fill the City Administrator Position.

Warrenton, North Carolina (population 862): The Warrenton Town Board appointed Robert Davie as town administrator during a special meeting held Tuesday evening, according to The Warren Record. Davie, who is currently a Warrenton commissioner, did not attend the meeting and had submitted a letter resigning from his elected position effective Oct. 1, the same day his new job begins. The town board unanimously accepted Davie’s resignation, but the vote was split 4-2 on his hiring. Commissioners Al Fleming and Margaret Britt dissented. Before the meeting adjourned Britt said she had nothing against Davie, but preferred another job applicant whom she felt was better qualified for the position. Fleming later said that he, too, thought someone else was more qualified. In opening the meeting, Mayor Walter Gardner said he felt the series of interviews the town board conducted, which initially included six applicants and was narrowed to three, went well. Davie’s salary is $41,208, plus benefits including health and life insurance, short- and long-term disability insurance, retirement, vacation and sick days. A town vehicle currently is not dedicated for use by the town administrator, and the job has a one-year probationary status. In reading the job offer before the motion to hire was made, Gardner noted that Davie’s primary job is that of town administrator, but that he could continue with other work as long as it does not conflict with town duties. Davie has been self-employed and has an active computer software business. Commissioner Mary Hunter made the motion to hire Davie, and Commissioner Jules Banzet offered a second. Commissioners Woody King and John Mooring also voted in favor of Davie. It is up to town commissioners to fill Davie’s nonpartisan seat on the board. He took office in December 2009 and has just over a year left on a four-year term. Gardner said Tuesday night that any town resident interested in the board seat should fill out a Statement of Interest to Serve, available from Town Hall by calling 257-3315. He said this would provide commissioners with office-seekers’ backgrounds. Gardner said that two to three citizens had already expressed interest in serving. He said he hoped the board could make a decision at its November meeting. The town board, at its October meeting, could set a deadline by which Statements of Interest are due in the event the board needs to hold a special meeting to discuss those interested or conduct interviews. According to North Carolina Open Meetings Law, the board cannot “consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, appointment, or removal of a member” of the board and may not consider or fill a vacancy among its own membership except in an open meeting. Davie said he planned to continue focusing on business development in Warrenton, which he has done as a commissioner, and hopes to help get vacant buildings leased or purchased and renovated when needed. He said he would continue to pursue grant funding, in particular for beautification projects, as well as possible alternative methods for financing some scale of renovation to the historic Town Hall building on East Market Street. Town employees earlier this month vacated the dilapidated building due to safety reasons, which include a leaking roof, mold and an interior balcony that is threatening the building’s structural integrity. Though what to do about Town Hall has been discussed off and on for some time, it has been a contentious issue that has sometimes divided the town board over the past year or two as commissioners have considered various options and price tags. Davie is currently working on a grant that would pay for an urban park in town, and said he plans to also focus on organizing the town’s human resources policies and updating ordinances. A Vanderbilt University graduate with a degree in political science, Davie has been largely self-employed since college, working in used computer sales, starting an Internet business marketplace for used computer dealers, and starting the software business he currently runs. During a three-year stint working for IBM, he was the top salesman out of 150 people in his division.

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