By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
County commissioners formally accepted the resignation of administrator Mary Bloomer at Tuesday evening’s regularly scheduled meeting. Her resignation will take effect May 11.
After that vote, the board voted 4-1, with commissioner C.J. Wettstein against, to approve an exception to a hiring freeze resolution currently in effect and approve advertising to fill the administrator position.
Wettstein, an opponent of the county administrator position, said the county needs to enforce the resolution it put into effect last year.
“We implemented a hiring freeze, and I feel it’s up to the county commissioners to step up the plate, to do their job instead of rehiring a county
administrator,” he said.
Wettstein pointed to the cost of having an administrator, saying since the position was implemented in 2002, it has cost Seward County taxpayers approximately $1 million.
“I think we got a pretty good signal from the election this last time,” he said. “They wanted us to reduce government, and this is one position we can reduce and save the taxpayers of Seward County $125,000 a year.”
Wettstein praised the county’s department heads and employees.
“I feel they have excellent department heads,” he said. “I feel we have excellent employees. The department heads are the ones that run their day-to-day offices and make sure everything’s done. If they have a problem at that time, I feel the department heads can come to the county commissioners – either in a meeting or contact each one and get some input. I just feel this is something we can do and just not fill the position of county administrator.”
Commissioner Doug Lafreniere said most commission members have other jobs, leaving little time to run the majority of business in the county.
“I don’t have flexibility to go out every day and visit with the department heads,” he said. “I need a contact person. I don’t mind keeping an eye on the departments, but I think we need someone to keep an eye on us. We’ve got to have somebody there that’s watching over all of us and is responsible to us.”
Commission chairman Jim Rice referred to a resolution passed in 2002 outlining the duties of a county administrator.
“There are certain duties that are required of the county administrator,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with coordination and supervision. I think that’s an important part of what we do.”
Rice compared Seward County to a large business, with the county commission serving as a board of directors and the administrator serving as a CEO, something he said few, if any, companies of significant size operate without.
“I just can’t understand how five commissioners can get together every two weeks and solve all the problems that are going to come up from time to time.”
Rice said the county has officials, both elected and appointed, who need somebody to answer to, ask questions of and coordinate activities.
“I’ll admit when I first got on the commission, I was wondering if that position was really necessary,” he said. “I will tell you, since I’ve been on here the last couple of years, I can see why it’s vital to the operation. I don’t feel we can go off haphazardly and just think the department heads are going to handle everything.”
Rice said while many counties in Kansas operate without an administrator, those counties are much smaller fiscally than Seward.
“They’re smaller counties,” he said. “Their budgets are not nearly as much. Our budget is substantial, and we need somebody to watch after that every day.”
After the commission approved advertising for an administrator, a date was also set for a work session to allow the board to revisit the job description for that position. That session will take place at 5:30 p.m. next Tuesday in the commission chambers in the Administration Building.