County hears pitch for administrator
County commissioners spent two hours Monday listening to a sales pitch from a municipal consultant who helps find administrators.
Ironically, the consultant told them that having shorter meetings was a key reason in having an administrator.
“The longer the meeting, the less that gets done,” consultant Don Osenbaugh of Derby said.
For two years, the county has budgeted for an administrator despite a 2017 vote against hiring one.
Commissioners Jonah Gehring and Dave Mueller have continued to champion hiring an administrator and invited Osenbaugh to talk to commissioners a second time.
Osenbaugh last spoke to commissioners two years ago, and no action was taken then.
Osenbaugh told commissioners what they would want to look for if they decided to hire a county administrator.
He said the county would need to narrow down what it would expect an administrator to do and what it would be willing to pay.
The county has budgeted $125,000 for an administrator, office, and staff for the last two years.
Osenbaugh said an administrator would be around all the time to give department heads direction.
“The other thing is to be available to be a spokesman for the county, 24/7/365,” Osenbaugh said.
An administrator reports to the commission and oversees all non-elected department heads.
Osenbaugh told commissioners his qualifications for being hired to assist in hiring an administrator.
In 2020, Osenbaugh stepped in as interim Hillsboro city administrator after Larry Paine was struck with cancer. After Paine was able to return to duty, Osenbaugh’s firm was hired to recruit a new Hillsboro city administrator.
Marion hired Osenbaugh to find an administrator to take over after the retirement of Roger Holter.
At Monday’s meeting, Hillsboro mayor Lou Thurston and Marion mayor David Mayfield voiced support for hiring a county administrator.
“I would not want to do my job without a city manager,” Thurston said.
He told commissioners that Hillsboro’s city council had to undo things done before the city had an administrator.
“I hope you guys will seriously consider this and move forward with a county administrator,” Thurston said. “If you go down this path, and I sincerely hope you do, then it is imperative that anyone coming into this position have the commission’s 100% support.”
Osenbaugh told commissioners it was better to be proactive than reactive.
He said researching grant opportunities was an important part of an administrator’s job. He used Holter as an example.
Osenbaugh said the number of applicants for administrative jobs had declined in recent years. It used to be as many as 50 applicants had to be narrowed down to the 8 to 10 searchers wanted to deal with. Now there are about that many to start.
He encouraged commissioners to be flexible with the job description.
“There are a whole lot of things that managers do that never make the job description,” Osenbaugh said. “There’s a lot of tweaking that goes on because it’s a new position and you can’t know all things.”
Commissioner Randy Dallke said he thought the public should have another opportunity to vote whether to hire an administrator.
Commissioners’s first discussions regarding Osenbaugh in November 2020 took place in an executive session termed “illegal” by Kansas Press Association consulting attorney Max Kautsch because discussion did not concern a specific employee.