Yay or nay to administrator?
A decision looms for voters Tuesday about whether county government should be led by a county administrator.
Commissioners have raised the question many times in the past. None until now have acted on those discussions.
So what do we know at this point about having a county administrator?
Should the question be passed, Marion County would be just the 22nd county in the state to have such a position, while eighty-three counties will continue to operate with just part-time commissioners leading the way, the same as they have since some counties began converting to county administrators about 30 years ago.
Should the question be passed, state law specifies what areas of government a county administrator should be responsible for: preparing the annual budget, capital improvement plans, and long-term strategic plans; recommend individuals for appointed positions and compensation, such as for non-elected department heads; coordinate and supervise administrative functions; supervise, evaluate, and recommend compensation and discipline of personnel; and other areas.
Should the question be passed, it will have done so without a specific job description or plan for how those responsibilities will actually be constructed, allocated, and implemented to work best for Marion County’s needs. Individual commissioners have their thoughts about how a county commissioner could work, but no collective direction has been decided. Administrator positions are different across counties, providing various models to draw on.
Should the question be passed, commissioners will have to rethink and restructure what they do, giving up much of their regular work to an administrator, and develop effective practices and relationships to work together.
Should the question be passed, commissioners will have to figure out how the position fits in an organization where the administrator can’t supervise the county clerk, county treasurer, register of deeds, county attorney, or sheriff, all elected positions.
Should the question be passed, it’s likely voters will have approved more than just a county administrator. Given all the responsibilities listed above, additional support staff will be a necessity, although that could be limited somewhat by reassignment of duties in some departments that right now cover those responsibilities.
Should the question be passed, numerous professional groups, politicians, businesspeople, and others maintain that county operations would become more efficient and effective. A day-to-day professional leader with these responsibilities, they argue, would be an improvement over three less qualified, part-time elected officials. Many also say the county would save money in the long run from increased efficiencies, although no impact assessment has been done.
Should the question be passed, the county would have a structure similar to both Marion and Hillsboro, towns that have full-time professional administrators.
Should the question be passed? Should Marion County have a full-time administrator? That’s for you to decide on Tuesday.
— david colburn
Last modified Nov. 2, 2017