Josh Smith picked as new Rock County administrator

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

JANESVILLE—Rock County's new administrator learned part of his trade from his former boss.

On Tuesday, the county's staff committee announced it had unanimously selected Josh Smith to replace Craig Knutson, who is retiring Aug. 31 after working for the county for 35 years.

Smith, 41, of Waunakee, served as Knutson's assistant from 2005-10.

Smith says he's excited about returning.

“As I told lots of different people when I was there (for interviews), I really enjoyed my time in Rock County,” he said. “It seemed like a great opportunity to help a lot of people.”

County government is responsible for everything from juvenile justice to land conservation, human services to snowplowing rural roads, and maintaining parkland to operating the court system.

In 2014, the total county budget was $191.9 million. Of that, $64.5 million comes from the tax levy.

Smith's start at the county will overlap Knutson's final months to aid in a smooth transition between the two.

Already, Smith has some of Knutson's attributes.

When asked what his priorities for the county were, Smith deferred to county board members, saying, “They are the policy makers.”

Knutson, when asked for a specific opinion on an issue, always defers to the board, saying, “That's a policy decision.”

Others noticed the similarities, too.

At a event May 22, the public was given the chance to talk with the three finalists for the position and leave their impressions on note cards.

One writer said Smith would “make a smooth transition” to the job and was “closest to our current administrator as far as budget knowledge.”

Another commenter said Smith “has the scope of experience and reminds me of Craig (Knutson).”

Smith will be starting his job at the beginning of budget season, and he expects that to be “all-consuming.”

Smith did say he hopes to spend time out in the community, meeting with partners in town and city government.

Smith is the special assistant to the state auditor for the legislative audit bureau, a post he has held since 2011. Before that he served as assistant director for the office of operations review and audit for the University of Wisconsin System Administration.

Smith holds a master's in public policy from American University in Washington, D.C., and a bachelor's degree in communication/news with a minor in political science from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.

The other two finalists for the position were Jo Ann Miller, administrative coordinator for Pierce County, and Mark Mader, chief of staff for the Waukesha County Board.

Last updated: 7:06 pm Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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