VANCOUVER — In recent weeks, Clark County has made progress in its search for a new county manager after the previous county manager, Mark McCauley, was terminated by county councilors in May.
In June, the county entered into a contract with the Prothman Co. to provide an interim county manager. Jim Rumpeltes began working as the interim county manager in July.
Members of the Board of County Councilors voted in August to approve a motion that allowed Rumpeltes to enter into a contract with the third party search company Strategic Government Resources to conduct a search for a permanent county manager.
In an interview with ClarkCountyToday.com, Council Chair Marc Boldt outlined the progress that has been made in the search process.
Once the search committee was hired, representatives of the search company surveyed the council members and department heads regarding what each desired out of a county manager. Based on the responses, Boldt said that the committee is now in the process of drafting a job posting for the county manager position.
The job posting will go before the county council for approval before it is released and applications are accepted.
“We want to make sure that we have great candidates,” Boldt said, “not necessarily good ones. There’s a lot of good ones but there are very few great ones.”
Boldt said that once the job posting is released, it will be open for two months. The search committee will narrow the pool of candidates to approximately 10, and from those 10, the county council members will choose five of the best candidates.
After five candidates have been selected, Boldt said that stakeholders from the community, representatives of other government agencies, other city managers, county department heads and other local elected officials will give their recommendations. The county council members will then make a decision to hire a candidate to be the new county manager.
According to Boldt, the new county manager would begin work at the beginning of 2018.
Boldt said that he would like to select a candidate that “both demonstrates leadership and can train department heads [and] people under them [in] leadership skills.”
Boldt also said that the ideal candidate “has a track record of change and accountability,” and is a person that will search for ways to “adapt to changes in Olympia and Washington, D.C.”
Former County Manager Mark McCauley did not meet the expectations of leadership skills, Boldt said.
“I think it goes to the question that we had a good if not a very good county manager, but we didn’t have a great county manager,” Boldt said. “It had a lot to do with conveying [those] leadership skills between him and the department heads.”
While McCauley did not meet the expectations of the county council, Boldt said that the council members have been pleased with the decision to hire Jim Rumpeltes as the interim county manager.
Clark County pays $125 for every hour Rumpeltes works. While Boldt said that the cost of contracting with an outside provider for the interim county manager does cost more than hiring internally, he said that the end result is worth the expense.
When the council members terminated McCauley, they knew changes would be necessary, Boldt said. Contracting with a third party provider allowed the county to hire an interim county manager with a proven history of facilitating change in government.
“We didn’t know what the changes would be, and still don’t,” Boldt said, but the council members have been pleased with the job that Rumpeltes has been doing.
Boldt said that the county Human Resources department and himself oversee the hours Rumpeltes works. Rumpeltes has been working, on average, four days a week for 12 hours a day. At $125 per hour, that’s about $6,000 per week in wages. In addition to that, Rumpeltes has also invoiced the county for expenses such as airfare and auto rental. By comparison, McCauley’s salary at the time of his termination was $3,258.85 per week (or $14,121.67 per month), about half of what the county is spending on Rumpeltes.
“We’re all aware of we’re spending a lot of money so we better get results,” Boldt said.
While he admitted that contracting for the services of an interim county manager was more expensive than hiring internally, Boldt said that the costs of Rumpeltes’ health care and other benefits are taken out of what the county pays, the county does not pay for those expenses directly.
When McCauley was terminated, former Deputy County Manager Bob Stevens did not fill the role of interim county manager. According to Boldt, the deputy county manager position is designed to fill the role of county manager if the county manager has to leave the office for short periods of time.
“We hired Jim to actually bring change,” Boldt said. “Bob (Stevens) just didn’t want to do that. He felt that he wasn’t that good, so that’s fine.”
Deputy county managers are selected from heads of county departments. Stevens serves as the director of Facilities Management for the county, Boldt says.
When Stevens did not wish to fill the position related to the county manager, Rumpeltes appointed Human Resources Department Director Kathleen Otto to serve as the deputy county manager, Boldt said.
According to Boldt, while the specific changes the county council envisions the county manager making have yet to be determined, Rumpeltes has worked to eliminate staff positions that do not fill county needs. “That’s Jim’s primary goal,” Boldt said.
One change Boldt pointed to was the termination of the chief of staff. He said that the council has yet to decide if the position will be retained in the future.
Going forward, Boldt said that he hopes to see additional staffing changes relating to the county manager and county council. When the county’s Home Rule Charter was established in 2014, all support staff was under the supervision of the county manager.
Boldt said that other counties that have enacted home rule charters have placed some staff, particularly those positions related to policy and constituents, under the direct control of the county council, so they are not “beholden to the county manager.”
Rumpeltes is currently working to facilitate some staffing changes, and some vacancies have already been made, Boldt said. By bringing some policy staff and constituent staff under the direction of the council, Boldt said that some concerns by citizens brought to council members could be addressed more directly, rather than having to go through the county manager.
While Boldt said the Home Rule Charter “is silent” regarding hiring staff accountable directly to the county council, Boldt said that the county’s prosecuting attorney determined the action allowable under the Charter.
Boldt additionally said that efforts are being made to ensure that the staff under the council and county manager are in a position to work together, but are not redundant.
At the Aug. 15 Board of Councilors meeting, Councilor Eileen Quiring voted against using Strategic Government Resources to conduct the search for a new county manager.
In a phone interview with ClarkCountyToday.com, Quiring said that Strategic Government Resources was a company that usually handled searches for city managers, not county managers.
“It’s a different role,” Quiring said.
According to Quiring, she voted no because she wanted to work with a company that had more familiarity with county manager searches, and would understand the differences between city and county managers.
“The interim county manager is aware that I had some misgivings,” Quiring said, and noted that in a preliminary vote prior to the council meeting, another council member also expressed misgivings. Quiring declined to disclose the other board member.
Despite her misgivings with the search company, Quiring said that the interim county manager has passed them onto the search company, and she said she believes the county will be able to work with the company.
As the search for a new, permanent county manager continues, Boldt said that he wants to hear input from Clark County citizens. “Wisdom is out there in the people,” Boldt said, and the council is trying to get input in the search from constituents.
Boldt can be reached via email at email@example.com. Contact information for the rest of the Board of County Councilors is available on the Clark County website at https://www.clark.wa.gov/councilors.