County seeks low-cost way to recruit

Commissioners lean toward bypassing an administrator search

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Clark County commissioners will meet with the county's human resources department this week to discuss what it takes to replace County Administrator Bill Barron, 68, who announced this month he will retire Sept. 10.

Barron is paid $174,252 per year, and his contract was set to expire in December 2014.

Barron said commissioners agreed to let him out of his contract early and that there was no additional remuneration involved.

Francine Reis, the county's director of human resources, told commissioners at last week's board time meeting that her department was not equipped for a search to replace the county's top executive.

Republican Commissioner Tom Mielke had earlier balked at the idea of spending $20,000 for an outside recruiting firm to conduct such a search.

Many government agencies consider it common practice to use a consultant when hiring top-level executives, such as county administrators or city managers.

Reis said consultants could meet with the board to determine the needs of the county, develop a plan for hiring, make use of recruitment pools and manage the interview process and background checks.

Mielke said he wasn't completely opposed to the idea, but would like to take an intermediate step before committing to a contract in the tens-of-thousands of dollars.

"I still come back to the same thing, (that) I believe we have talented people within our reach," he said.

That prompted Reis to suggest she meet individually with each commissioner and ask them about what they are looking for in Barron's replacement.

She would then return with a blueprint on what the ideal candidate would look like.

Democratic Commissioner Steve Stuart, who attended the meeting by phone, said he agreed that having a profile of what they want "gives us a better sense of what is the best way to find this person."

Job may change

Madore said he is worried about the hire as the county appears likely to move forward on a home rule charter.

"If we are on the same path as we just set out with the freeholders, (and) the likelihood of that turning into an elected administrator, (then) we have just very likely turned that into a temporary position," Madore said.

Kelly Sills, a county staffer who has taken the lead on researching home rule charters for the commissioners, said it was unlikely that the creating an elected county executive would end the need for an administrator.

Sills said several counties under that system still have a top-level staffer in such a position.

Looking locally

Still, Mielke and Madore appeared to share the sentiment that they may want to look within the department for a hire.

Referencing the two Republican commissioners' decision to hire state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to the role of director of environmental services, Mielke quipped that despite what some have heard, he does not have a person in mind to replace Barron.

Madore also seemed to dismiss such a promotion for Benton, saying the type of individual he has in mind would have been with the county "for many years."

Two obvious possibilities to fill the shoes, even if it ends up being on an interim basis, are Deputy County Administrator Glenn Olson, who is Barron's No. 2, and Public Works Director Pete Capell, whom Barron has said would be the next natural selection for the role.

Both Olson and Capell have been with the county for 16 years.


Erik Hidle: 360-735-4542; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com.