Administering a cure
County commissioners are right that administration of county government needs to be improved, but hiring yet another official would be throwing money at a problem without addressing its underlying causes:
- Department heads need to be open, trustworthy, knowledgeable, and the complete opposite of territorial.
- Commissioners need to appoint such officials, fire those who don’t fit, and give remaining officials latitude to do their jobs without micromanagement.
Neither of these actions would cost the 1 to 2 mills or more that a new administrator would. Only if they fail would an administrator be needed.
One way to accomplish this might be to cultivate county turf a bit differently. Do we really need separate units in charge of dispatchers, ambulances, and emergency management? Would having one official in charge of all three — eliminating or downgrading some supervisory positions beneath it — make sense?
We already rejected a solution other counties tried when we didn’t merge aging with extension before it broke off into its own taxing unit, but could aging be merged with, say, health?
Could we even look at combining some elected and appointed departments, like the registrar, appraiser, and planning and zoning?
What would the county look like with a single public works department, including road and bridges, transfer station, hazardous waste, etc.?
Breaking down silos in which bureaucracy becomes unmanageable and efficiency impossible may be a far more effective solution than creating another silo in the form of an administrator’s office.
Having strong, reliable appointees or elected heads for each of these mega-departments might build the kind of trust needed to keep commissioners from trying to micromanage and then complaining about how much they have to do.
Otherwise, we’ll be creating a game of telephone. Commissioners tell the administrator who tells the department head who tells the worker. Adding one more bureaucratic layer won’t improve communication. It will sabotage it.
— ERIC MEYER