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County does a two-step as interim admin backs out

By Anna Jauhola
Within a day of visiting Kittson County, on Monday, July 24, Trish Harren returned to Mower County to deal with an emergency situation.
By the afternoon of Tuesday, July 25, the Kittson County Board of Commissioners received word via text message from Harren stating she would be staying with Mower County as the administrator. The board had officially hired Harren as the interim administrator for Kittson County at its Tuesday, July 11 meeting.
During the commission’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 1, the board voted on an alternative plan to appoint an interim administrator internally, along with an interim chief financial officer. They first approved rescinding their vote to hire Harren.
“In my discussions with Trish, she said some of the candidate pool they had to refill her position had weakened,” Buhmann said.
Apparently, Harren suggested to the Mower County commissioners she would rescind her resignation if they would hire an assistant administrator. Mower County obliged.
With Buhmann’s last day being Wednesday, Aug. 2, the board needed a plan in place.
The personnel committee of Commissioners Loren Younggren and Leon Olson met and explored options, finally landing on hiring internally.
The board appointed Social Services Director Kathy Johnson as the interim administrator and Financial Accounting Specialist/Deputy Registrar Shirley Swenson as interim chief financial officer.
“Let’s be honest, we’re between a rock and a hard place right now, but we still need someone to at least be that contact on the day-to-day basis,” Buhmann said.
Both women have been with the county for some time and are eligible for longevity pay. Johnson has maxed out on steps on the payscale, and is only eligible for a 15 percent pay increase, which places her at $63.25 per hour.
Swenson is eligible for step increase to $39.68 per hour, plus a 15 percent increase to make her actual pay $45.63 per hour.
“We want to try not hiring a firm to find somebody for us,” Younggren said. “We want to try it on our own first for a month, just to see if we can get any nibbles. If not, we need to pursue another avenue like we did before when we hired Dillon (Hayes) and Brian (Buhmann).”
The commissioners commented on the long process of hiring an administrator before and they hope for local or regional interest from advertisements this first time around. Buhmann said he’d been working on updated job descriptions for the administrator and proposed CFO position as well.
The administrator position will be posted soon with the Association of Minnesota Counties and League of Minnesota Cities websites, as well as with the Grand Forks Herald.
The board has yet to officially approve creating a CFO position.

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