Unanimous decision by the council comes just one day after a forum for three finalists and about a year after the firing of Mark McCauley
Chris Brown and Eric Schwartz
After about a year without a permanent county manager, the Clark County Council announced in a press release Thursday the unanimous selection of Pleasant Hill, Missouri, city administrator Shawn Henessee to fill the role.
The move by the council came just one day after Henessee and two other finalists took part in a well-attended public forum moderated by interim manager Jim Rumpeltes, who has been in his position since shortly after the firing of former manager Mark McCauley in May 2017.
The council approved a motion authorizing Council Chair Marc Boldt and Rumpeltes to develop a contract with Henessee on Thursday.
“We believe Shawn’s strong background in local government and his character make him a good choice for county manager,” Boldt said in a press release.
Prior to his current position in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, which has a population of about 8,000 people, Henessee served as county administrator for Marinette County, Wisconsin, from 2015 to 2017.
“He has extensive experience with county and local government departments and functions,” according to the county’s press release. “He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wichita State University, a master’s degree in political science from University of Kansas and a juris doctor from University of Missouri.”
The other finalists for the position were Keith A. Regan, the managing director for Maui County in Hawaii, and Rick Rudometkin, county manager of Eddy County, New Mexico.
On Wednesday, during the forum, Henessee indirectly acknowledged a potential criticism that was voiced by a pair of citizens at the Clark County Council’s regular meeting last week. That opposition to the initial two finalists was based in the idea that neither of them had experience in a county of well over 400,000 people such as Clark County.
“I work at a relatively small city right now,” he said. “However, I worked for 13 years at a county with over 650,000 residents.”
Henessee served as an assistant director in Jackson County, Missouri, as well as a county administrator in Marinette County in Wisconsin. The law school graduate is a member of the Washington State Bar and cut his teeth working on laws around zoning and growth issues.
“I don’t care how much experience you have, you have a learning curve,” said Henessee. “I would say probably the most important learning curve that anyone has when coming into a position is learning the personalities of the employees.”
The candidates were also asked on Wednesday what they felt the primary challenges were for Clark County, and all pointed to the proximity to Oregon as a key factor creating revenue challenges for the area.
“Clark County is the most impacted by the dichotomy between Oregon and what things cost,” said Henessee. “With the income tax being very high in Oregon, and the lack of a sales tax, and candidly, I think it’s going to be extremely difficult to change that, because much of the rest of the state is not going to see the exact same impact as Clark County sees, and many people are used to and expect that, so they want to have that option. If you’re a Washington resident you can go over there.”
Henessee also spoke of his affection for the Pacific Northwest.
“I love this area,” Henessee said. “This is the reason why I got admitted to the bar in Washington is because I want to live and spend my time here. Yesterday in the 90-plus degree heat of Missouri does nothing but enforce that,” he added, drawing a chuckle.
Read more about the Wednesday forum here: