Alpena County commissioner questions administrator hire

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena County Commissioner Jesse Osmer, left, responds to a question from one of his fellow commissioners while being interviewed for the vacant county administrator position on Friday. Osmer is one of three finalists for the job.

ALPENA — The Alpena County Board of Commissioners could reconsider hiring a new county administrator.

After the board interviewed three finalists for the vacant position during a special meeting on Friday, Commissioner Bert Francisco suggested the county might not want to hire anyone after, he said, the county discovered a $100,000 expense for which commissioners hadn’t budgeted.

Francisco did not go into details on the new expense

The county set a wage scale of $85,000 to $115,000 a year for the new administrator.

Francisco said he is beginning to agree with Commissioner Brenda Founier, who has opposed replacing former administrator Mary Catherine Hannah, who took a job as county administrator in Saginaw.

Francisco said it may be wise to hold off on hiring a new administrator until county finances stabilize.

The county is looking at a budget shortfall in excess of $1.6 million next year.

Francisco was vocal about hiring a new administrator until learning about the new financial news.

“These added expenses were something I didn’t expect and made me reconsider,” he said.

Commissioner John Kozlowski said after Francisco’s comments that he isn’t opposed to Francisco’s idea, but he wondered if placing more responsibility on the staff in the Commissioners Office is the right thing to do.

“They have done a great job during this process, but I’m not sure it is fair to brush all of this off on them,” Kozlowski said.

Three former Alpena County employees, who combined have more than a century of county government experience, echoed their support for Francisco’s idea.

Retired county clerk Bonnie Friedrichs, retired treasurer Joelyn McCallum, and retired administrative assistant to the board Tammy Bates each told the commissioners on Friday that government in the county had run for years without an administrator and urged them to depend on the department heads and their staff to assist the board in county operations.

“Those are the people you will have to depend on, but you can do it, if you have to,” McCallum said. “Listen to them, because they have a lot of experience. It just needs to be a cooperative effort, because the county is huge.”

Bates said the three former employees attended the meeting and spoke up because, although they don’t work for the county any longer, that doesn’t mean they don’t want what’s best for the county.

“Between the three of us, we have over 100 years of experience,” Bates said. “We are here because we care. We may not have a seat in the courthouse, anymore, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care what happens with the county.”

The county interviewed former Alpena County administrator Jeff Thornton, former Gladwin County administrator Mark Justin, and current county Commissioner Jesse Osmer. Each answered questions from commissioners for an hour.

Osmer has recused himself from any decisions on the hire.

After the interviews, commissioners will use notes they took during the meeting to fill out a survey that scores the candidates. The consultancy firm the county hired, Amy Cell Talent, of Ypsilanti, will tabulate the results and send them back to the county.

Amy Cell will not make a recommendation on who commissioners should hire.

Commissioners will continue to consider their options during a board meeting on Tuesday.


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