Board to consider hiring firm to find new administrator

Published 8:37 am Monday, January 25, 2016

The next possible step in the search for a new Cass County Administrator will be decided next week.

The Cass County Board of Commissioners will vote during a special meeting next Tuesday as to whether or not to contract with Hiring Solutions LLC to provide assistance with the administrator search. If hired, the county will set aside $20,000 worth of funding to pay for professional services from the company.

A motion for the commissioners to consider working with Hiring Solutions was presented to the board during its regular meeting Thursday by members of the search committee dedicated to finding a candidate for the vacant administrator position. Speaking to the board were committee members Jeff Elliott, director of the Cass/Van Buren Health Department, and Kevin Anderson, manager of the City of Dowagiac.

The two local leaders represented the other members of the committee, who include Board of Commissioners Chairperson Bernie Williamson, Commissioners Skip Dyes and Clark Cobb, Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood, Undersheriff Richard Behnke, Probate Judge Susan Dobrich, Treasurer Linda Pruett and Michigan State Extension District 13 Coordinator Julie Pioch. The group has been meeting since the beginning of the year to determine the direction the county should take in locating its next central executive.

“We are recommending that you might want to seriously think about hiring a consulting firm to do the job that we can’t do,” Elliott said. “This company can look at past performances, they can look at all the character references, they can do all sorts studies.”

The firm would be responsible for going over the initial batch of applications for the position, whittling down the candidates to four or five strong people for the board of commissioners to interview, Elliott said. The use of a private firm offers several benefits over conducting the search process entirely through the public sector, including allowing potential candidates to apply privately.

“One of the worst things that can happen — and it’s a career buster for some people — is to say ‘I’ve got an interest in the job,’ and that becomes public before they’ve had a chance to really look at it,” Anderson said. “Then have to answer to people back home.”

Hiring consultants could also serve as useful liaisons between potential candidates and the board, Anderson said.

They also would take much of the burden of the search process off of the current committee, which is comprised entirely of local department heads and elected officials, Elliot said.

Hiring Solutions is a reputable firm that has worked in numerous searches like Cass County’s in the past, most recently in Kalamazoo county area, Anderson said.

While praising the efforts of the search committee thus far, Commissioner Robert Wagel restated his opposition to the idea of spending additional county resources toward hiring an outside firm, stating that the committee members would do a good job identifying potential candidates for the position themselves.

“It’s tiring, it’s long and it’s time consuming,” Wagel said, referring to the search process. “But we need to pick the right person this time.”

Vice chair Robert Ziliak also shared reservations with the idea, stating that the county had mixed results on the previous occasions it had used hiring firms.

“I’m afraid it might be throwing money away,” Ziliak said. “I just have that feeling.”

Commissioner Cobb, a member of the search committee, declared his support for the bringing Hiring Solutions on board, saying the firm’s employees would do a good job separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of job applicants.

“I think there’s an advantage to using this company,” Cobb said. “I think we’re probably more likely to get a good individual.”

With such spilt support among commissioners, the board voted to table the decision until it could meet with representatives with Hiring Solutions in person.