The current Carroll County Board of Commissioners wants to hire a new county administrator as soon as possible, but candidates from both parties running for seats on the board think the hiring decision should be delayed until after the November election and the seating of a new board.
The board has been without a county administrator, formerly called a chief of staff, since Steve Powell left the post in June to take a job with Carroll Lutheran Village.
The position of county administrator is responsible for the day-to-day operation of county government. Powell was paid $140,000 a year, but the salary for position is negotiable based on experience and skills.
The current board is beginning the process of filling the key position, even as candidates are saying they want to wait until a new board takes office in December. It is likely that three new commissioners will be serving on the board by the end of the year.
In expressing opposition to filling the position soon, the Republican nominee for the District 1 seat, Stephen Wantz, said, "Because this individual will have to work with three new commissioners, whoever they are, it would be better suited if that decision would be held off for the next several months before it's filled."
Wantz's sentiments were echoed by others hoping to be elected to the board in November.
There is sentiment among the incumbents, however, that the position needs to be filled relatively soon.
The two incumbent commissioners most likely to return — Doug Howard, R-District 5, and Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, each facing only write-in opposition in the general election — agree the position is too important to be left vacant much longer.
Howard said he would like the current board to begin the hiring process because it takes a few months to hire someone for a high county government position because advertisements have to be posted, applications have to be reviewed and interviews need to be conducted.
Depending on the timing of the hiring process, Howard said it could be the current or new board of commissioners that makes the decision. Even if it is the current board that chooses the new county administrator, however, Howard said he wants feedback from the candidates.
"If we're going to go forward with the process, I want to make sure we're getting some input from folks," Howard said. "I am concerned about just sitting and doing nothing until four or five months from now."
Howard said he would support filling position before the new board takes office in December if the current board found "the right candidate" who is also supported by potential future commissioners. Having a new county administrator would ensure a smooth transition, he said.
Rothschild also said the county administrator position should be filled as soon as possible. Ted Zaleski, director of the county's Department of Management and Budget, has filled in since Powell's departure.
Rothschild said he believes when budget season comes up in a few months, Zaleski will be too busy with his other responsibilities to do both jobs.
"I think we'll be jeopardizing the operations of the government if we don't fill that position," Rothschild said. "It would be a bad decision to wait."
Even if the board chooses a new county administrator before the new board takes office, Rothschild said it will discuss the decision it makes regarding the position with the candidates.
Both the Republican and Democratic nominees for the board want the current commissioners to wait until after the new board takes office in December before appointing a new county administrator.
Dennis Frazier, the Republican nominee in District 3, said, while it wouldn't be a "terrible thing" for the current board to fill the position, it is his preference to wait until the new board takes office.
"There's going to be three new county commissioners after November," Frazier said. "I just think it'd be better to have input [into the decision]."
C. Richard Weaver, the Republican nominee running unopposed in District 2, said it would be appropriate for the new board to make the decision regarding the position. The county administrator, Weaver said, will be working closely with the board, so it makes sense to have the new board choose who they want in that position.
"It would be nice for us to have the input into who is going to be the people we work with," Weaver said. "I would hope they just wait for the new board to deal with this issue."
Wantz and Jackie Jones, the respective Republican and Democratic nominees in District 1, said they both want the new board to make the decision.
"I am opposed to filling this position this close to the end of the [current board's] term," Wantz said.
Though she said she believes the decision on a new administrator can be delayed until after the election, Jones said she supports the aspect of Howard's plan under which the current board begin the process. She wants the new board to make the final decision.
Maria Warburton, the Democratic nominee in District 3, said she also wants the new board to choose its county administrator. Warburton said she wants to avoid a situation of the current board hiring someone who could end up being let go when the new board takes office.
"How many would even be interested in applying for the position knowing that it could only be a four-month slot?" Warburton said. "I understand the need to fill the position, but it seems like they could have someone in the interim."
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Reach staff writer Christian Alexandersen at 410-857-7873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.