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Commissioners split over new administrator’s wage

ALPENA — Alpena County may not be willing to pay a high enough wage to hire a new experienced and highly qualified county administrator.

During a personnel committee meeting on Wednesday, the committee set a wage scale of between $75,000 and $105,000.

That range will be debated further at the next full board of commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday but falls well below what consultant Amy Cell Talent, of Ypsilanti, recommended. The consultant recommended a wage scale of $110,000 and $130,000.

“My feedback is that there are going to be many very qualified candidates in that range,” she said. “There will be candidates that will want more, but finding a qualified candidate for under $100,000 is going to be challenging.”

Some of the commissioners expressed a desire, on the surveys they sent to Amy Cell, that the wage be much lower than $100,000.

Commissioner Travis Konarzewski reminded the other commissioners on the committee that not paying fair value for a qualified and experienced candidate, could lead to a less qualified one being hired who could work a couple of years, strengthen their resume, and leave for a higher salary in another county later.

“That would mean we would be right back to where we are now,” he said.

Commissioner John Kozlowski and Brenda Founier indicated they are in favor of a low wage, possibly under $100,000 because of the large budget deficit the county has and could continue to struggle with. Kozlowski also added that many elected officials, such as the sheriff, clerk, and treasurer would make much less than what a new administrator would.

The county is in search of a new administrator after former administrator Mary Catherine Hannah left to pursue another career opportunity by becoming the administrator for Saginaw County.

Hannah’s starting salary in Alpena when she was hired by Alpena County in 2021 was $100,000. She is being paid $170,000 by Saginaw County.

During their update with Cell, the commissioners also made tweaks to the qualifications they prefer for a candidate. A candidate with a bachelor’s degree is preferable and a master’s degree is ideal, but candidates who have years of on-the-job experience in government administration could be considered.

Once the commissioners reach an agreement on the compensation for a new administrator, Cell will post and market the position for about four weeks and then work an additional week to filter through the interested candidates and begin the communication process.

Then, Cell will produce a list of between seven and 10 candidates for the county and the interview process with the commissioners will begin.

That list is expected to arrive on March 29, but no dates are yet set for the formal interviews before the board of commissioners.

In the meantime, Jennifer Mathis is acting as the interim administrator for the county.

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