You can tell a lot about a boss by listening to authoritative sources who have witnessed the leader's performance under pressure. As Clark County administrator (essentially the CEO of government with constituents approaching a half-million) Bill Barron has certainly confronted an abundance of pressure over 14 years. Much of the stress has been budget-related. Over about five years starting in 2007, the county budget was cut by about $62 million, more than 100 workers were laid off, benefits were reduced, salaries were frozen and large expenditures were deferred.
Barron, 68, recently announced his retirement as of Sept. 10. From our perspective, his performance has been rock solid, reliable and founded on the highest standards of professionalism, openness, strength and fairness. But more compelling are the words of those with whom he has worked. Here are several comments from Columbian archives and recent emails:
County Commissioner Tom Mielke: "We relied on (Barron) for a lot. 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."
Commissioner Steve Stuart: "Bill is an amazing public servant who has given of himself for many years to make this place better. I'm lucky to know him and work with him."
Commissioner David Madore:"I highly value Bill. 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."
Former Commissioner Marc Boldt: "(Barron) had a unique way of guiding by encouragement."
Former Commissioner Betty Sue Morris: "He was above all things a gentleman and a scholar and a person of exceptional quality."
County Auditor Greg Kimsey: "Bill has been an outstanding county administrator. He has a very high level of integrity, ethics and competency. It has been my honor to work with him."
Clearly, then, Barron's successor will be severely challenged to repeat such a performance. That replacement process will be thorough. Madore explained: "We need to be very careful and very purposeful in that selection. We won't come in and immediately just pick a guy."
Barron said his resignation "has nothing to do" with the recent controversial hiring of state Sen. Don Benton as the county's director of environmental services. "This is something my wife and I have had planned for some time," he explained. But we suspect it's no coincidence that Barron's departure was made public one day after the hiring decision by Madore and Mielke, against which Barron had strongly advised. We also believe ample evidence suggests Barron will run down the figurative homestretch at full stride, head held high … the same way he served the county for more than 14 years.
Although the replacement process will be thorough, the best approach can be summarized in just four words: Find another Bill Barron.