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Stevens County will hire full time coordinator

MORRIS – The Stevens County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to advertise for a full time county coordinator who will also be responsible for supervising and evaluating county department heads.

The decision came approximately one month after County Coordinator/Engineer Brian Giese submitted his resignation to the board. Since that time, the board has debated over whether to hire a coordinator or administrator, and what duties that county manager should have.

The job description the board approved Tuesday is for a county coordinator, but it includes some administrative functions like supervision over the county’s department heads.

In general, the county should have more flexibility with a county coordinator. The county board can set the duties and responsibilities for the position, and a coordinator can be dismissed at any time.

A county administrator, on the other hand, has specific statutory powers and duties that include things like hiring and removing staff, making purchases, preparing the budget and overseeing county finances. Administrators can also supervise other county department heads.

One of the ongoing concerns expressed by some commissioners and department heads is that a strong administrator would prevent direct communication between the two groups.

Commissioner Jeanne Ennen said she didn’t mind if a coordinator led annual evaluations for department heads, but values having that time to hear directly about needs, wants and challenges from employees.

Commissioner Ron Staples said it’s difficult for the board to complete evaluations since board members don’t work with department heads on a daily basis.  

Commissioner Phil Gausman suggested a middle ground, proposing an annual meeting, separate from evaluations, with each department head to gather input.

To make sure the annual meetings are part of the process going forward, the board added an explicit clause in the county coordinator job description to review evaluations at an annual meeting between the board and department heads.

The posted salary range for the position is $69,000 to $90,000.