Franklin County commissioners voted 3-0 on Wednesday to hire a search firm to find candidates to fill the vacant county administrator position.
They agreed that more needed to be done to replace Fred Bowen, but initially disagreed on whether county Human Resources Director Carlee Nave should try to reach out directly to candidates herself.
The county had placed notices for the opening with publications in the Tri-Cities, Spokane and Seattle, as well as with state and national county associations and a national job search website. Nave said they received 14 applications back and five or six of those looked like good candidates.
“I would describe them as viable candidates worth further screening,” she said.
Commissioner Rick Miller understood it would take time to find an administrator, but wants to be sure to have someone in place in time for budgeting for 2016, he said.
“We’ve got a lot going on with the TRAC situation,” Miller said. “I just want to make sure this gets done in a timely manner.”
Commission Chairman Brad Peck said he feels the candidate search would take too much time away from Nave’s regular duties, as well as those of Planning and Building Director Jerrod MacPherson, who has been filling in as interim county administrator since Bowen retired in February.
“We have asked two of our finest county employees to go above and beyond their normal duties,” Peck said. “With respect to Jerrod, he would never say this, but the extra hours are cutting into the hours he could be spending with his family or a whole lot of other things.”
Commissioners asked Nave to recommend one of three search firms so they can vote on hiring one next week. Commissioners expressed reservations about the cost of hiring a firm, which is estimated around $30,000, including expenses.
Search firms have told Nave it likely will be between mid-July and late August before a county administrator is chosen. Commissioners expressed confidence that MacPherson, who doesn’t want the job permanently, could continue to do the job until then.
Commissioners disagreed over the minimum qualifications for the administrator, which call for a bachelor’s degree and four years of “progressively responsible organizational management experience, preferably in the public sector.”
Miller wants to see more experience in management, as well as a required financial background for the job.
“I think we need experience,” he said. “This is a management position in the county. It’s huge.”
Peck defended the qualifications listed in the job description. Half the commissioners in Benton and Franklin counties, as well as 40 to 50 percent of elected officials in Franklin County, couldn’t meet the existing requirements, he said.
“I do think we’ll have to pay him more than we are offering to get the minimum level of qualifications you are talking about,” Peck told Miller.
The position is now advertised as paying between $116,000 and $121,000 annually.
Nave agreed that the county should cast a broader net for minimum qualifications.
“Just because you made it doesn’t mean you are a viable candidate,” she said.
In other business Tuesday, commissioners approved closing or restricting traffic on part of West Sagemoor Road northwest of Pasco during the July 11 Renegade Rage Mud Run, a 10-kilometer race where participants navigate an obstacle course.
Runners will cross the road east of Dayton Road as part of the race. It will benefit the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission and Jubilee Leadership Academy.