Curry County commissioners had nine applicants vying for the county administrator position this year, but none made the shortlist for hiring.
Of those, only two or three were interested in the position after hearing more about it, or were even qualified to take the job, Greg Prothman, owner of The Prothman Company of Issaquah, Washington, told the Pilot Monday.
“Those two or three weren’t what we were looking for,” he said. “It was wise of them (the county) not to settle for second-best. Good for them.”
He admitted Curry County’s location presents a challenge, as well.
“Compound that with the overall market for administrators, it’s not unusual to have to go out once or twice to find the right candidate,” Prothman said. “It’s the time of year and that the general market for county and city managers is much leaner.”
He calls it the “silver tsunami” of baby boomers retiring, leaving a smaller pool of experienced people to take their place.
“It’s not unusual — I want to make that clear,” Prothman said. “We’ll get better candidates after the holidays. It’s hard to recruit for that location, and the county can pay only what it can pay because it’s small, and there’s a smaller pool of county managers.”
The county paid $10,500 plus expenses to the headhunting firm. The BOC also approved spending $80,000 for the prorated time of an interim administrator in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
John Hitt has been serving as the county’s interim manager, conducting the day-to-day activities of the county to allow commissioners to address larger issues such as county’s revenue problems, long-term land use and zoning plans.
The board even had trouble finding a recruiting firm to do the work, with one saying Curry’s farflung location would make a search a “waste of time and money” for all involved. Prothman initially said it hoped to have a qualified finalist before the board by the end of August.
The board decided at its Nov. 15 meeting to continue seeking candidates. It acknowledged then, as now, that it can request interviews with the people Prothman has found, continue the search, consider revising the requirements of the position, increase the pay being offered or use a different recruiting firm.
76,271 to $97,343 plus “excellent” benefits is posted on the search site, and the deadline has been extended, this time, to Jan. 14.
The job entails
The work of a county administrator is extensive, and includes creating and enforcing ordinances, rules and policies adopted by the board; preparing department director performance evaluations, attending all meetings and keeping the board apprised of issues that might affect it; and preparing short- and long-term plans and an annual report.
The manager would prepare the board’s agenda, coordinate the activities of the county’s departments and determine where money could be saved.
The administrator would not, however, have any authority over actions of elected officials, but would be in charge of hiring and firing of non-elected department directors.
The person would also be required to set salaries of administrative directors, act as the county personnel officer, direct and manage employee and labor relations matters and act as the county budget officer.
Other job duties include:
•Perform community relations functions, including internal publications and external communications;
•Serving as a media, advisory committee and community organization liaison;
•Providing citizen assistance; serving as an information center; and providing publication coordination and graphics support services;
•Website management; administer contracts and grants; o
•Oversee county economic development functions;
•Administer the risk management program for the county;
•Direct the use, operation, maintenance, control and custody of all county and district property, buildings and improvements.
Getting the word out
Prothman said last spring it would place print and Internet ads in professional publications and journals, mail brochures to those in the field who might not be looking for a new job and use its database of recruits to create a pool of about eight to 12 from which to choose.
Among those it lists as placements relevant to Curry County’s needs include county administrators in Deschutes, Clatsop and Lane counties in Oregon, and numerous city managers in the Pacific Northwest.
“The tenure of our placements is among the best in the industry,” the proposal reads, “because we understand that ‘fit’ is the most important part of the process — not just fit within the organization, but fit within the community, as well.”
A screening process will involve reviewing applications, conducting interviews and background and reference checks, and then traveling to Gold Beach to discuss the best candidates in more depth with commissioners.
“Plus for free! …” the document reads, Prothman will “design” final interviews, including the structure — possibly including stakeholders and receptions where people can meet candidates — and determine how much the county is willing to pay to have candidates travel here and then the cost of relocating a new hire.
Critics of hiring a manager — the county last week lifted a temporary hiring freeze it’s had in place since this spring — note the county is not financially stable enough to hire anyone and cuts to the budget have left few employees for an administrator to oversee. Currently, the county has 98 full-time employees — half of what it had five years ago before cuts and department spinoffs and consolidations began.
Prothman said it intended to spend $1,000 to $1,600 in advertising for the position, $1,200 to $1,600 to do direct mail announcements, $200 to $400 to create interview binders — and another $150 to $250 to deliver them — and background checks at $225 per candidate.
Candidate expenses can’t be calculated, the proposal reads, because Prothman officials don’t know how far they would be traveling to get to Curry County, the length of time they’d stay, nor if family members would be accompanying them.
The firm also bills a 3 percent charge to reflect tax obligations it must pay in Issaquah, Washington, where it is based.
If a candidate is not selected, the company will repeat the process for $1,200 plus expenses.
No decision was made at a county commissioner meeting this month about how to proceed.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to go out two, three, four times,” Prothman said Monday. “That’s what they’re paying us to do, and we’ll keep doing it until we’re done.”
Reach Jane Stebbins at firstname.lastname@example.org.