Administrator interviews

Gary Weiers of DDA Human Resources presents the Morrison County Board of Commissioners with the results of a blind poll of their top candidates, Wednesday, with the aid of Interim Co-County Administrator Beth Hamlin. Seated at front is the Board, from left, Mike LeMieur, Randy Winscher, Jeffrey Jelinski, Greg Blaine and Mike Wilson, along with Interim Co-County Administrator Brad Vold.

The Morrison County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously, Wednesday, to offer the position of Morrison County Administrator to Matthew LeBlanc.

The decision represented a major milestone in a process that began in July with the resignation of former County Administrator Deb Gruber, who had held the position since 2008. The Board voted at its July 27 meeting to hire Gary Weiers of DDA Human Resources for consulting services in finding the next administrator.

LeBlanc is a Morrison County native, and has returned home to raise his own family since retiring after 21 years of active service in the United States Army. He retired as a lieutenant colonel after holding every level of position, from entry to corporate level, either as a staff member, to the commander, or as a director within various institutional, operational and strategic environments, culminating with senior upper-level manager status in a dual role as a battalion commander and director of emergency management.

LeBlanc holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree in business and organizational security management from Webster University. He was chosen from a pool of four finalists for the position who interviewed with both department heads and the Morrison County Board, Wednesday.

Also up for the position were St. Cloud City Clerk Seth Kauffman, Assistant City Administrator/Director of Community and Economic Development for the city of Sartell Scott Saehr and CWT Manager of Accounts Payable Shannon Coyle. Each of them were selected as finalists by the County Board after Weiers’ initial screening process was completed in October.

A fifth candidate, Anthony Carson, removed himself as a finalist for the position.

Wednesday, all four candidates met with eight department heads from Morrison County for interviews in the morning. They then came back in the afternoon to answer 19 pre-written questions from the County Board.

The questions asked the candidates to explain their supervisory styles, draw on past experiences — both good and bad — and how they accomplished or handled them, how they would build trust with the County Board and staff; and much more.

“Stick to these questions with follow-ups that are related to the question or the answer,” Weiers told the Board, prior to the interviews. He said sticking to the script would prevent a situation where one candidate answered a question that was not asked of other candidates.

Once all four of the interviews — which ranged in time from 30 to 50 minutes — wrapped up, Weiers presented the Board with comments from department heads from the morning interviews to review. Having that information, along with their own interviews, he then asked each of them to write down their top two choices, in order.

“That’s the best way, rather than a work through, ‘Let’s talk about each of the four candidates,’” Weiers said. “You could do that if that’s preferable, but usually it’s better to just get the cards on the table and then talk about people.”

Prior to that step, however, he said the Board needed to be sure it was ready to move forward with a decision. He said the “worst thing” the Board could do was to move forward when it wasn’t sure if it was ready. Each member of the Board indicated they wanted to move forward.

When Weiers presented the results of the secret ballot, all five commissioners had chosen LeBlanc as their top choice. Saehr was the second choice for four of the five, with Coyle also getting one second-place vote.

“All five of you have the same number one candidate,” Weiers said.

“Is that a first?” asked Interim Co-County Administrator Brad Vold.

“No,” Weiers said. “It actually happens all the time. I’m not surprised. It sounds like you might be ready to move forward.”

A motion was put on the floor to offer the position to LeBlanc. It passed, 5-0.

The job offer does not bring the process to an end just yet, however. Weiers will now work with LeBlanc and two appointed county commissioners — Mike Wilson and Randy Winscher — to negotiate the terms of an employment agreement. The hope is that all of those details will be worked out by early next week so the County Board can officially hire LeBlanc at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

One other matter of discussion involved how the county wanted to structure the employment agreement.

“Is this going to have a lifelong contract, is that the potential, or is it going to be a five-year contract with a renewal?” Winscher asked.

“My suggestion is to have it open-ended,” Weiers said.

The Board’s human resources attorney was going to look over the proposed contract over the weekend and get back to Weiers and Vold with any input. In the meantime, Weiers said he would be able to negotiate details such as compensation and vacation time.

Commissioner Greg Blaine was apprehensive about offering an employment contract at first. However, by Wednesday, he had come around to the idea.

“I kind of did a 180 on this now and I am supportive of this,” Blaine said. “I also agree with Mr. Weiers in the fact that I would want us to avoid having terms on this; to have this be a one-year contract, a three-year contract, a four-year contract.”

Below is a short bio on each candidate and how they answered three of the questions put forth by the Board of Commissioners.

Seth Kauffman

Kauffman currently serves as the city clerk for the city of Saint Cloud, and has been in the position for over four years. Prior to this, he worked for the city as a mayor’s office aide for nearly three years.

Kauffman holds a bachelor’s degree in planning and community development from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Capella University.

Q: “Please tell us what interests you about this position and highlight key qualifications that make you the best person for this job.”

A: “This job really interests me because it’s a step in the right direction not only for my career, but I feel for Morrison County, as well.

“What interests me about this specific one, my qualifications, I have a history of working in local government. I’ve worked for the city of St. Cloud for the past five, six, seven years. I’ve had a history prior to that of working for the city of Hutchinson for their economic development authority, as well as working for the department of employment and economic development for a short internship, as well.

“Outside of that, those are the tangibles, those are things on paper, the education, experience. I also, prior to any interest in local government, I grew up on a farm. I understand farming communities, farming needs. Then I’ve had multiple jobs, heavy labor jobs.”

Q: “Other than what you have already been asked, please describe additional priorities you see for Morrison County.”

A: “Personally, I’ve always been involved with bolstering IT service. I believe that it should always be an option that citizens should be able to come to the website and get as much as they can done on that website.

“Additionally to that, I would say indicators of success, to have that measuring stick, if you will, for the performance for any given fund or any given part of the budget. We can see if there are parts that are dropping behind for some reason. Then we can pick those out and see if there’s a way we can push those back up to our standards.”

Q: “Why should the Morrison County Board select you as our next county administrator?”

A: “You should select me because of my experience, my education — both have gone hand-in-hand, not only in the local government world, but also in other items that I have pursued.

“Additionally when I was hired as clerk in St. Cloud, I was one of the youngest people who was in the group of leadership. No one questioned my authority as a leader. No one questioned if I should be there or not. I walked in and I’ve ran every leadership meeting from 2017 until now.”

Scott Saehr

Saehr currently serves as the assistant city administrator/director of community and economic development for the city of Sartell. He has been in the role for a year and a half. Prior to this, he served as a community solutions specialist for Sourcewell for two and a half years, as an interim clerk/administrator for a year and a half, and as the city administrator for the city of Pierz, for two and a half years.

Saehr holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas.

Q: “Please tell us what interests you about this position and highlight key qualifications that make you the best person for the job.”

A: “A big reason why I’m here is because I’m a member of this community. I love Morrison County. I love the trust of the people that work within Morrison County, and most importantly the relationships that I’ve built throughout my career.

“Leading up to this part of my career has given me the opportunity to really embrace relationships and learn new qualities that are needed for the county, especially in this role, as well as given me the opportunity to be a service member in our community to be able to take on this role in a positive and proactive manner.

“Key qualities in myself, I’m very service-minded. That’s very important to me. Randy, I think you can attest to this, and Jay, you can as well, and Mike, around being community driven as well as being a part of the community in many different ways, whether it’s through first response, fire departments. I’m a member of the (standard response protocol) board throughout the state, so I was very involved with making our community a safe and better place in that regard.

“Just overall, I serve on the water board as well. I do serve on a nonprofit board just to help me stay connected and communicative within the community. That is definitely one of the qualities that I feel is very important, especially for this role.

“Most importantly, too, is around trust and communication are other qualities that I can bring to this role. As I had multiple conversations with both Beth (Hamlin) and Brad sitting in this room, my focus and what always has been my focus, is based around trust, communication and a positive attitude. I think that is a quality that I’d bring — and is, more importantly, the best quality that can be utilized in a position such as this when it comes to communicating between the board members as well as multiple department heads and multiple employees, as well as relationships throughout our community.”

Q: “Other than what you’ve already been asked, please describe additional priorities you see for Morrison County.”

A: “There are many opportunities for growth. We have the county seat in Little Falls where there’s a lot of open buildings that need to be filled right now to increase additional jobs.

“I think economic development is very important in our community, and the county. I would focus on what that looks like, what the goals of the county are. Look at the comprehensive plan and what that identifies as the needs for the next few years, five years, 10 years, whatever that may be.

“For me, it’s really understanding the goals of the commissioners and understanding the goals of the department heads. What does that look like? I may have a vision of what that looks like, but for me it’s safety. It’s living in my community and having a place where I call home that I work and love and raise my family and continue to grow my family.

“That might be different for all of the board members and different for Beth or Brad. So, really for me, collectively understanding as a whole and working toward that as a group and as a team would be the biggest priority for me.”

Q: “Why should the Morrison County Board select you as our next county administrator?”

A: “I’m a very good communicator with my wife and this is one of the things that we talked about. I have my understanding, but I respect and acknowledge hers.

“(I’m) personable, service-minded, all of the things that I’m involved with not only impact me personally, but the fact that I serve among them.

“Relationships that I have here. I live here. I love the staff that I’ve worked with around here. I want to continue raising my family. I said earlier, one of the challenges for me was working in a different community where I don’t get to work with the people that I enjoy working with and have a purpose.

“When I’m leading a team and I’m leading it for the greater good, what I believe in, I, myself, am a better person to my family, to the staff that I’m around, as well as, I reach more of the goals that I want to reach in my own personal experiences.

“So, why would the county want to select that? I said this many times already, the relationships with the county are so important to me, and I envision that’s important to you as a Board and others, including staff, in the county. Relationships with all levels of the city, all resources, cooperative purchasing resources, AMC, individuals around other counties to network and know what’s going on in Cass County, or Todd County, or Wadena County, or Stearns, and bringing that back and understanding that.

“I’m very relationship based. I’m very communicative. I’m very open door policy. I love to build trust. I’m very active in creative culture. I’m very pioneer driven. I love listening to podcasts and I share a lot of interests that are around that pioneer focus ... and what does that look like and how can we use what we have and growing within and leveraging everyone around you to grow with that?”

Shannon Coyle

Coyle is currently employed by CWT as the manager of accounts payable. She has been the with the company for over 18 years and has held the other positions of manager of revenue accounting, senior revenue accountant and senior financial analyst. Prior to this, she served as a junior auditor for Henry Scholten & Co. for over four years and as an accountant with information handling services for eight years.

Coyle holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Colorado – Denver.

Q: “Please tell us what interests you about this position and highlight key qualifications that make you the best person for this job.”

A: “What drew me to the position, really, was, I was a reserve with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office when I lived down in Waconia. I just really enjoyed working with the community in that role that I was in; helping to support the Sheriff’s Office with just a bunch of different things — going to the Carver County Fair to setting up crime scene perimeters, all sorts of things. I just got to meet a lot of people in the community, and I really enjoyed the role.

“When this position came open, I just thought, ‘Well, I’ve got some finance and accounting background, I live close, it would be a nice change from what I’m currently doing.’ It just kind of tugged at me, and so, I applied.

“I’ve got over 30 years of experience of doing accounting work from finance management to accounts payable to balance sheet (profit and loss) type analysis, things of that sort. I’ve managed people since probably 2008 or 2009.

“I think the largest group of people I’ve managed was around 11 people. Currently I’m managing a team of one in Minneapolis and six accountants offshore in Hyderabad, India, because we outsourced all of our accounting about five or six years ago.”

Q: “Other than what you have already been asked, please describe additional priorities you see for Morrison County.”

A: “Given the situation we’re currently in, I definitely think community wellness is kind of a key thing to focus on. Getting people healthy again, getting people back to work. I’ve got elderly parents, so I’m over there helping them all the time, but yet making sure that they can get to their appointments or somebody can come to the house to make sure they’re staying well.

“And being finance minded, I guess economic growth would be another focus of mine; making sure that we’re moving in the right direction, that Morrison County’s growing from a financial standpoint.

“Another thing that comes to mind would be the workplace. Like I mentioned before, I guess, getting people back to work and helping them find resources to help facilitate that.”

Q: Why should the Morrison County Board select you as our next county administrator?”

A: “If you select me for this position, you are going to get someone who is very dedicated and focused. I pride myself on being hard-working and a very truthful person.

“I work hard every day to get the job done that I’m hired to do, and I will not fall short of that in anything. I don’t know if that’s from growing up on a farm, I don’t know. I guess my parents just instilled that in me — a good work ethic.

“With me, you’re going to get somebody that’s going to go to bat 150% for you, to get the job done to support anything that the county needs, that the department heads need.”

Matt LeBlanc

Bio listed in story.

Q: “Please tell us what interests you about this position and highlight key qualifications that make you the best person for the job.”

A: “I guess I’ll start with key qualifications. Specifically, as the county administrator for Morrison County, what makes me different — I believe I’ll out-work anybody. I don’t know the other candidates, but I can attest to my upbringing and my background.

“(I was) raised seven miles east of town, I grew up on a hog farm. On Saturday mornings, loaded up the pigs and take them out to Swanville for the auction all the way through high school. How ironic it was that my father sold the hogs after I went off to college.

“I rose my hand to join the Minnesota National Guard. I was the first in my family to go to college. I didn’t have the means to pay for it, so I followed in my father’s footsteps and became a member of the Guard and that’s where I started off on that path.

“I walked in the guidance counselor’s office and saw a camouflage folder, filled out the scholarship, didn’t know what I was signing up for, but the rest was a 21-year history in the active Army.

“Through high school and college, I wrestled. I went off to St. Cloud State University where I wrestled for them. As Dan Gable would say, ‘We did things that would make a Billy Goat puke.’ I realized that if I can’t be smarter, I just have to work harder, and I’m not afraid to do that. I enjoy that. I enjoy surrounding myself with good people and putting forth those efforts.

“Twenty one years in the active Army, not an easy thing to do; not personally and not for the family. It was a challenge. We did it together. I practiced leadership, I taught leadership and I studied leadership over those 20 years; to include two of them teaching them at St. John’s in the ROTC program.

“Then, ultimately finishing up my time in the military and coming back home. We built our home about five miles east of town. Found a little plat of heaven that we purchased back in 2010 and put our house smack dab in the middle of 90 acres out there and we’re not going anywhere.

“What interests me is to go off and lead soldiers both in a garrison environment and deployed. My last organization was about 1,000 personnel strong — with 250 civilians and 650 soldiers, give or take.

“Coming back home, I knew I was coming here because I knew that life was finer. I knew my parents’ clock was ticking. I wanted to bring the talents that I was able to glean and really pull from my past and find a place where I could best use those. How fortuitous it was that this position became available.

“As I looked into Little Falls and the greater community, I really was even looking to Brainerd and St. Cloud to find, ‘Where could I take what I’ve learned and influence and lead folks the best way I know how.’

“I think that’s what interests me. This is a challenging position. I haven’t done government — state, county, federal — but I’ve been part of two different garrisons. A garrison is like a city. The garrison of Fort Riley is about 40,000 people and the garrison of Fort Drum, we surged to 50,000 during the duty day and 20,000 lived there inside the gates day-in and day-out.

“I was the director of emergency services. I worked right alongside PW and public relations and all the different directors, a lot like our department heads. I’m familiar in that aspect in how to be part of a community and really to contribute.”

Q: “Other than what you’ve already been asked about, please describe additional priorities you see for Morrison County.”

A: “I have to say, I hope to think that our number one priority is the same is what I described earlier with the military, and that’s people. I don’t know that I’ve seen that written anywhere.

“I know we talked recruiting and retain ... We have to care for our staff. We have to care for the folks that we’ve surrounded ourselves by all the way to the constituents and the population. To just have a personal interest in their lives; that it’s not shallow and that it’s genuine.

“I think my number one priority, if I was to have one, would be the people.

“After that, I would imagine that the problem sets are about the same buckets, probably in personnel and manning in the fiscal constraint and in the infrastructure. Then we kind of address where the shortcomings are in each.”

Q: “Why should the Morrison County Board select you as our next county administrator?”

A: “I told the county attorney earlier today — I’m me. What I’m bringing forward to you today is me. This is not a facade. This isn’t anything other than genuine. If selected, then it’s because I’m somebody that you’re looking for. If not, that’s OK, because I hope you do select the person you are.

“What I think makes me different other than what I’ve already described, I’m used to synthesizing information, receiving direction from multiple entities. As a young company commander in Iraq, I provided support for five battalion commanders — much like yourselves — and each of them had a little bit different way of doing things. I had to get to know them and what it took to make them tick.

“Through all of my positions, I’m used to the commander. At Fort Drum, I had the commanding general, a two star. He had oversight of the entire installation, writ large to include the community. He would tell me certain things. The garrison commander was focused on the installation, he would tell me certain things. My brigade commander was at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he would tell me certain things.

“I had to take all those different directions and try to meld them together and then pass on that information to my subordinate organization and keep us ... to please the masses.

“I’ll go back to the Autumn Hills. I personally got a lot out of that board meeting.

“I appreciate Commissioner Winscher’s initial motion for discussion. I think that was almost the elephant in the room that we needed to discuss things, and we needed to hear more about the problem set and get a better understanding about it.

“I appreciate Commissioner LeMieur having a very systematic approach. He had it step-by-step, this is how I’m approaching this problem. I can relate to that. Yes, no and move onto step two.

“Commissioner Jelinski, hearing the Planning Board and bringing up having something shoved down folks’ throats and addressing that back to those that were dialed in and hearing.

“Then Commissioner Blaine, representing your constituents and really the concern that the folks of Long Prairie have. I don’t know what it’s like to be a single ‘nay’ vote, but I can imagine it’s — I’ll just leave it at that. I appreciate the courage that it takes, that it’s OK. Then I’d imagine at the end of the day you all are still good.

“For Mr. Chair, to keep it all organized. Then to have our land recorder here to make adjustments to the write up and keep track of all the different talk that happened.

“I really, personally, enjoy getting to know people. I really, personally, enjoy getting to know what makes them tick, and what makes them successful. I’ve followed many leaders, and all types, and multiple at any given time more often than not. I think that does make me unique in this, as well.

“I will work hard. I will put my best foot forward. I’m not going anywhere. I take care of people and I’ll do everything I can to help prepare the five of you to make the best decisions possible.”

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