County administrator announces early retirement

Bill Barron says final day will be Sept. 10

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: May 2, 2013, 7:54 PM

 
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Bill Barron's retirement announcement

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County government’s CEO, Clark County Administrator Bill Barron, says he will retire at the end of the summer.

Barron, 68, announced his decision Thursday afternoon, saying commissioners have agreed to let him out of his contract, which was to run through 2014.

His final day with the county will be Sept. 10. His salary is $174,252.

The announcement comes a day after Republican commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke elected to bypass county hiring protocol to appoint state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, as the county’s director of environmental services.

Barron was visibly crestfallen by the move, telling the two Republican commissioners their action would “devastate the organization.”

Barron said Thursday his decision to retire “has nothing to do with what is currently going on.”

“This is something my wife and I have had planned for some time,” Barron said.

Madore, who was elected in November, was also quick to dispel those rumors. “There is no connection whatsoever between Bill’s retirement and Don Benton joining the county.”

“I highly value Bill,” Madore said. “He is amazing, and I hate to lose him. It’s going to be very difficult to try to replace him and if I were to wish anything, it would be that I wish for more time with him.”

Both Madore and Mielke agreed that the hiring of a county administrator will need to go through the county’s hiring process, a process they bypassed with Benton’s selection.

“We need to be very careful and very purposeful in that selection,” Madore said. “We won’t come in and immediately just pick a guy. Bill has been here for 14 years. We want the next (hire) to be here that long as well.”

Mielke said he expects a search to be done for the position, but also said they could look internally.

One seemingly natural heir apparent, Mielke said, is the county’s deputy administrator, Glenn Olson.

Both men said they are not considering Benton for the position.

Mielke also heaped praise on Barron for his tenure with the county, saying he had been critical in the efforts to stay afloat during challenging economic times.

“We relied on him for a lot,” Mielke said. “We were probably a pain in his side, because we are a hands-on commission, but we learned a lot from him. And he made everything work. It takes a talented man to do that.”

Mielke chuckled and said he petitioned Barron to stick around as he was “too young” to retire, but to no avail.

Commissioner Steve Stuart, the only Democrat on the board, called Barron’s departure a “tremendous loss for the community” and said he was sorry to see him go.

“Bill is an amazing public servant who has given of himself for many years to make this place better,” Stuart said. “I’m lucky to know him and work with him.”

Stuart said he expects the board to make a decision on how to hire the new administrator in the coming weeks.

Past commissioners also said the community was better off thanks to Barron.

Former Commissioner Marc Boldt said Barron had “a very unique way of guiding by encouragement.”

Former Commissioner Betty Sue Morris said the retirement is a “tragic” loss for the county.

“He was above all things a gentleman and a scholar and a person of exceptional quality,” Morris said.

Barron says he plans to move to Boise, Idaho, where his wife currently works.

The September retirement will put Barron’s service time as the county’s top administrator just shy of 15 years. He was hired by the county in November 1998.

A veteran of the United States Air Force, Barron received two degrees from St. Mary’s College of California, a bachelor’s and a master’s, both in political science. He also studied at Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

His career in public administration began in 1972 when he took an administrative role with Lake County in Illinois. He was promoted to assistant county administrator of Lake County in 1977.

Barron accepted a county administrator job with McHenry County in Illinois in 1994.

He then took the Clark County job in 1998.