Search for county administrator begins

by Paul Rignell

Contributing writer

The Sherburne County Board took another step toward finding a new county administrator June 11 by approving an offer from David Drown Associates, based in Minneapolis, to lead a professional search.

To find the right person for succeeding Brian Bensen, who will retire Aug. 1 after 14 years as the administrator, the commissioners will work most closely with David Drown associate and consultant Gary Weiers, who is no stranger to the county building in Elk River.

Weiers worked four years as a social services supervisor for the county in the 1990s and recently resigned from a post as Rice County administrator after 10 years. He retains his David Drown office in the Rice County seat of Faribault, but he has told the Sherburne County board and staff that he expects to make six visits to meet with officials in Elk River through the administrative hiring process.

Based on the board discussion of June 11, a second consulting candidate, Springsted Inc., of St. Paul, promised four visits to the county.

Most decisions between or among bids for a county project also greatly depend on dollars, and the David Drown bid of $14,000 for all of its search services – with advertising – came in lower than Springsted’s inclusive bid of $15,750.

The board also agreed to a fee of $900 for each of approximately three to five finalists, who should be named in mid-August, to undergo a personality inventory conducted by Martin-McAllister consulting psychologists, of Minneapolis.

Weiers’ process will begin by meeting with the Sherburne County commissioners separately and as a whole board. He will meet and confer also with department heads before compiling a job description for distribution.

Advertisements will include postings through the League of Minnesota Cities and the Association of Minnesota Counties, along with similar offices in all bordering states.

David Drown Associates will name a list of semifinalists for the position after judging and scoring all applications. Following a round of telephone or online interviews with the semifinalists, Weiers will report to the county board for their direct involvement in selecting the finalists. The board then will meet and interview all finalists.

After extending an offer, and if it is accepted, Weiers’ plan for the county is to have the next administrator in office by mid-October. In the case that the board should decide within one year that the new administrator has not performed well with county operations, Weiers would begin a new search for no additional fee owed to David Drown Associates.

The proposal from Springsted featured the same promise.

Weiers said June 11 there should be a good group of applicants from which to choose the semifinalists.

“I don’t think a candidate pool is going to be difficult to assemble,” he said. “It’s a good place to work. You’re going to see some high-quality candidates here.”

For now, the transition will be assisted as the board voted last month to name County Assessor Dan Weber as an interim deputy administrator. Having worked for Sherburne County about 18 months, Weber came in with prior experience as an assessor and interim administrator for Kanabec County.