A job posting has officially been made for the position of Morrison County Administrator.
Gary Weiers of David Drown Associates (DDA) Human Resources Inc. came before the County Board at its planning session Tuesday, to discuss the process moving forward. The Board voted July 27 to contract with DDA associates to assist in the search for the next county administrator. The position was vacated Friday, which was former administrator Deb Gruber’s last day with the county.
“We’ll post the position tomorrow, if not later today since there’s not a lot of changes to anything,” Weiers said, Tuesday. “We leave it open for four weeks. At the end of the four weeks, I will do an additional screen of candidates to determine the top 10 - 12 candidates. Then those people move onto the next phase, which is a video interview and a personality profile.”
Once those have been completed, all five members of the County Board will receive access to the personality profile, video interview, resume and cover letter of each of the semifinalists selected by Weiers. He will then come before the Board to facilitate a discussion regarding who will move on to receive final interviews based on the information provided to commissioners.
By law, the finalists must be selected at a regular meeting of the Board, though the names of the candidates will not be public information until the finalists have been chosen. Weiers said there are usually four or five candidates who are brought in for interviews with the Board.
Once they have been selected, Weiers will run a background check, looking at references, criminal history, civil court history, motor vehicle records, credit reports and more.
On Weiers’ original timeline, the Board was to select finalists at its Oct. 19 meeting. After some discussion, that was pushed back one week until Oct. 26, when the Board will hold a special meeting rather than a planning session.
“We’re not going to get access to those 12 or 14 until a week before that,” said Commissioner Greg Blaine, using a hypothetical number of semifinalists. “I’m just curious if it’s possible that we would have a greater window of time to review 14 candidates in seven days. Could the 19th be kicked out another week?”
Weiers said that could be done. Though he said most officials feel one week is enough time to review the provided materials on each candidate, he acknowledged that sometimes life gets in the way of that happening.
He also clarified that the video interviews with each candidate are about eight minutes long. He estimated it typically takes 30 - 45 minutes to review all of the material on one candidate.
“I made the comment before when we first talked about this process that I don’t want to do this fast, I want to do this right,” Blaine said. “I think, if we want to do this right, we should take our time and really dig deep into this when we do it. I don’t want to assume that all of us on the board have nothing to do the week between the 12th and the 19th of October.
“I don’t know what the harm would be to have a bigger window of time to go through this,” he added.
Commissioner Mike LeMieur asked if extending that review period by a week would push back the entire timeline Weiers had prepared. Weiers said it would. The initial date set for the Board to hold interviews with the candidates was Nov. 10. If everything got pushed back one week, it would be looking at Nov. 17.
Though, Weiers said, given the timeframe, that might not be a bad idea to push that back.
“Now, any time I get north of the Twin Cities, and we’re into the first or second week of November, people go, ‘Wait a minute. Deer season,’” Weiers said. “I don’t know if, we may need to modify that based on your schedules. It doesn’t have to be set today, but I like to have a preliminary date that we can include in the advertising just so the candidates know, ‘OK, here’s how the process is going to move forward.’”
That Nov. 17 meeting will also be a special meeting of the Board. If there are four or five candidates remaining, Weiers said the normal process is for each of them to interview with department heads in the morning and with the Board in an open meeting in the afternoon. Ultimately, the decision on who to hire rests with the County Board, but the meeting with department heads is useful in giving them a chance to provide feedback on how they think a candidate will fit into the organization.
Gruber said she felt, coming from experience, those interviews with the department heads are also a valuable exercise for candidates, as they’re also able to evaluate how they feel they would fit.
“It is a nice opportunity,” she said. “I would recommend you do that.”
Department heads are not involved in that initial phase, however, when the number of semifinalists are whittled down to the finalists.
“Inevitably what happens is, some people quickly rise to the top and some people quickly sink to the bottom,” Weiers said. “I’m including people in this mix initially that are not as strong as the others, and then we discuss the people in the middle.”
Board Chair Mike Wilson expressed that his main concern was that the entire process was finished by the end of the year. Mainly, he wanted to ensure that a new county administrator will be ready to start right away in January 2022.
Weiers said that was a realistic timeline, and he didn’t think pushing everything back one week would really make a big difference. He said most candidates, unless they are internal, are not able or willing to start in the middle of December, anyway.
“I feel it’s highly unlikely we would have someone start before the first of the year,” Blaine said.