Cass County selects interim administrator

Published 1:40 pm Thursday, March 11, 2010

Leader Publications

CASSOPOLIS – An eight-member majority of the Cass County Board of Commissioners received verbal acceptance by telephone from Florida Saturday morning of a $55-an-hour offer as interim administrator from Benzie County’s 11-year administrator-controller.

Charles J. “Chuck” Clarke of Beulah, who has a house in Kalamazoo County and a sister in Lawton, will be hired for up to 24 hours a week to work as a part-time employee primarily on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Clarke served as the first administrator-controller in Benzie County in northern Michigan from May 1998 until August 2009, adding controller on Dec. 19, 2000.

Clarke, who fielded 11 questions during a 15-minute interview, was wrapping up a stay in Florida, where it was sunny and in the 60s, to return to Michigan.

He indicated he will attend a special Board of Commissioners meeting called for 6 p.m. Tuesday, when the county is also expected to vote on the Feb. 22 executive search proposal submitted by President Robert E. Slavin of Slavin Management Consultants.
In a 6-2 straw vote, Chairman Robert Ziliak, R-Milton Township, and Vice Chairman Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis, voted against Slavin, who has “affiliates” in Dallas, Hartford, Conn., Key West, Fla., Los Angeles, Mesa, Ariz., and Mackinac Island, Mich.

“I still feel strongly about Mr. (William) Baldridge,” Francis said. “He’s Michigan-based, with knowledge about our community.”

Sheriff Joe Underwood agreed. “Their methodology’s the same, but Baldridge would be more hands-on and available,” he said.

Baldridge charges 10 percent of the final salary paid to the administrator hired.

“Dowagiac was very happy with him,” added County Treasurer Linda Irwin added. “He’s never placed a county administrator. He told me that.”

Officials posed 15 questions to Slavin during their 42-minute exchange.

Slavin’s company, founded in 1991, has placed more than 700 public executives.
He started his local government career in 1967 and formerly served as the assistant city manager in Beverly Hills, Calif.

His bachelor’s degree in political science is from the University of Santa Clara.

He completed graduate course work for a master’s degree in public administration at California State University, Hayward.

His search takes 60 to 90 days to complete and includes three visits here and the assistance of George Goodman, former Michigan Municipal League executive director and Ypsilanti mayor.

Executives recruited to Michigan include Ann Arbor, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Kent County, Novi, Portage, Washtenaw County, Traverse City and Ypsilanti, though no county administrators in the past five years.
He lists three county administrators as references.

“You will be happy with the person you hire, whatever it takes,” Slavin said.

Supporting Slavin were Commissioners Charlie Arnold, Carl Higley Sr., Johnie Rodebush, E. Clark Cobb, Debbie Johnson and David Taylor.

“He’s already done a lot of background checking. He knows the job market, the housing market, revenue sharing. This guy’s already working on our project,” Slavin impressed Arnold, who had been interested in hearing from a fourth candidate who could not be reached for Saturday.

Sheriff Underwood, Treasurer Irwin, prosecutor Victor Fitz, County Clerk-Register Barb Runyon, Water Resources Commissioner Bruce Campbell and Road Commission Chairman LeRoy Krempec also attended the interviews.

Slavin, one of three recruiters under consideration to identify a replacement for Terry Proctor, who concludes his 20 years as the second Cass administrator on March 12, was interviewed by conference call from Norcross, Ga., where his office is near the Atlanta airport.

In Slavin, Cass County would get the longest-serving recruiter in the nation and a U.S. Marine Corps officer from February 1971 to July 1991. He also operated a small business, Holiday Park in Traverse City, for five years, June 1993-May 1998.
Clarke earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University majoring in English and philosophy in anticipation of a journalism career. As a manager, Clarke has supervised as many as 300 subordinates.
Benzie County had a $5.2 million general fund, $23 million in total funds and 100 employees.
The county offered Clarke $55 a hour as less than Proctor’s $58, based on what Irwin described as a $118,000 salary and benefits package.
Slavin would cost $13,865, plus no more than 55 percent of the professional fee, or $7,625.75 for expenses, plus $450 to $650 per travel for about five candidate interviews.
Commissioners also interviewed Bill Baldridge of North Muskegon, who performed both roles for Dowagiac when it bought out Dale Martin’s contract and hired City Manager Kevin Anderson from South Haven in 2008, and Karl Nollenberger, a University of Wisconsin professor who consults for Voorhees Associates of Deerfield, Ill.
Nollenberger’s 33 years of public administration experience includes two county administrator jobs in Minnesota and in Illinois.