Community meets county administrator finalists

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Friday, May 16, 2014

JANESVILLE—The questions ranged from, “How will you work with town government?” to “Are you a Packers fan?”

The event was Thursday's large-scale, community interview with the three finalists for the post of Rock County administrator at the Pontiac Convention Center. The candidates are Joshua Smith, Jo Ann Miller and Mark Mader.

More than 70 people applied for the position. The Rock County Board's staff committee, along with help from the county's human resources department as well as Walworth County Administrator David Bretl narrowed the field to six semifinalists.

From that group, the three finalists were chosen.  Another round of interviews will be held today and a final decision will be made at a future staff committee meeting, said David O'Connell, director of human resources. The choice has to be approved by the full county board.

The candidates began the evening by introducing themselves to the full county board. They then moved between small groups of board members for direct interviews.

Of the 280 people invited to the public part of the event, about 50 turned up.

They represented a cross section of the community, including union and business representatives, economic development staff, UW Rock County officials, county staff, fair board members and city and town officials.

The buzz words for the evening were “collaboration”, “tax pressure” and “intergovernmental cooperation” and the candidates faced questions about economic development, the future of the General Motors plant, improving relationships between local units of government, and, of course, taxes.

Smith currently works at the state's Legislative Audit Bureau. He previously worked as an assistant to the administrator in Rock County.

Smith told county board members that he was a “generalist,” a person with knowledge of budgets and county government, but his overarching skills were as a program and economic analyst.

At the center of his work at the audit bureau are three basics elements that he thought would relate well to the county position: Integrity, nonpartisanship and respect.

Miller, who currently serves as administrative coordinator in Pierce County, described her leadership style as “collaborative.”

“My professional goals--and I've thought many times about this over the years—is to provide success for others,” Miller said. “Others could be individuals, department heads, the department as a whole, or groups in the community.”

Mader currently works as chief of staff in Waukesha County. Like Smith, he previously worked as an assistant to the administrator in Rock County.

The best way to be successful in such a position is to listen first, Mader said.

“You have to listen to all the partners, all of them, to see what the priorities are,” Mader said.

Mader said he was “completely committed to being a cooperative leader and facilitator for Rock County.”

Rock County officials hope to have a new administrator on board for several weeks of overlap before current administrator Craig Knutson retires.

Knutson's last day is Aug. 1. He started with the county in 1979 as assistant to the county administrator and became county administrator.

Knutson is being paid $131,549 plus benefits this year.

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