Commissioners ponder county administrator but cost is just too high

Staff writer

County commissioners last week heard a suggestion from Marion city council member John Wheeler that the county hire an administrator to oversee day-to-day operational matters and free up commissioners to focus on “higher things.”

Wheeler said he’s had people ask him why the county doesn’t have an administrator style government in recent months.

If Marion County had an administrator, commissioners could focus more of their time and efforts on things like economic development, Wheeler said.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said the first time he met Wheeler was when he came to talk to commissioners, but the idea is appealing. Right now, he doesn’t see the idea as workable.

“To me, the idea is super,” Dallke said. “The idea is fantastic. If we had plenty of money coming in, I’d feel a little freer to do that.”

Commissioner Randy Dallke said the idea is appealing, but right now, he doesn’t see it as workable.

“To me, the idea is super,” Dallke said. “The idea is fantastic. If we had plenty of money coming in, I’d feel a little freer to do that.”

Wheeler said his interest comes from looking for better ways to do things.

“When I moved back home four years ago I watched how things were done and wanted to get involved,” Wheeler said. “I thought it was interesting and started to delve into it.”

Another challenge of having an administrator is that they could not oversee all of county government.

The county’s five elected department heads, the clerk, treasurer, register of deeds, sheriff, and attorney, would not answer to an administrator. All other departments would.

Wheeler said cooperation between elected officials and an administrator is necessary for the administrator style government to work.

“There’s a lot of cooperation that the elected officials and the county administrator,” Wheeler said.

Kansas Association of Counties shows 21 of the state’s 105 counties have administrators. Russell County, population 6,956, is the smallest of counties with an administrator.

The neighboring counties with administrators that Wheeler mentioned include Dickinson, Saline, McPherson, Harvey, and Butler, Dallke said.

“The rest of them are back to our sizes,” Dallke said.

Acquiring and retaining personnel is a big issue for any business, including a county, Dallke said. Marion County is not one of the highest-paying counties around.

“It would be nice to have the money to do that, but we have to deal with what we have,” Dallke said.

Last modified Sept. 8, 2016

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