Douglas County Commission still waiting for contract to be completed for incoming leader

photo by: Chris Conde

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

Although Douglas County commissioners have found who they want to serve as the next county administrator, the process to fill the position isn’t yet finished.

Douglas County Commission Chair Michelle Derusseau told the Journal-World Monday that contract negotiations are still underway with interim County Administrator Sarah Plinsky. Commissioners last week selected Plinsky to fill the role of county administrator, which became open after the retirement of longtime leader Craig Weinaug in December.

But commissioners did not finalize the appointment of Plinsky because they did not have a contract ready to approve. Commissioners directed county counselor John Bullock to begin contract negotiations with Plinsky to fill the position. The commission still needs to approve the contract during a public meeting for the appointment to become official.

Derusseau said the commissioners did not set a timetable for the negotiations to be completed, but she thinks it’s a priority for both Plinsky and Bullock.

During their selection of Plinsky, commissioners also did not set a salary for the position. That number will be part of the negotiated contract that is brought to commissioners.

Plinsky’s hiring process has ended up being different from some other top government positions in the community because commissioners decided to forgo a traditional search process or vetting other candidates.

But at the suggestion of Commissioner Patrick Kelly, the commissioners did briefly go over the qualities they were seeking in an administrator just prior to taking the vote to offer Plinsky the job.

Kelly said that list for him included someone who can direct the day-to-day work of the county, provide direction toward achieving goals set by the commission, work collaboratively with local community partners and provide input on commission decision-making.

Commissioner Nancy Thellman said she wanted someone with experience in departmental leadership, with problem-solving skills and someone who would be “passionate on behalf of Douglas County when it comes to planning and updating regulations.” Derusseau, echoing what she said about Plinsky on Aug. 14, said she wanted someone with institutional knowledge of Douglas County and an ability to work with county stakeholders.

After listing their expectations, the commissioners agreed Plinsky was the right person for the job.

“I don’t think we need to do a search at this time because when I look at what I’ve thought are the essential qualities we need for a county administrator, I think (Plinsky) checks all of those boxes,” Kelly said.

Although no one spoke in opposition to Plinsky’s appointment during the meeting, Derusseau responded to people who have or may voice concerns over her appointment without the commission conducting a search.

“She earned it over and over and over as assistant county administrator, but more importantly over the last eight months (as interim county administrator),” Derusseau said of Plinsky. “I support (Plinsky) and moving her on to a position she’s earned.”

Derusseau on Monday also said she expects the commission to have a discussion about how to proceed with the now vacant position of assistant county administrator. Plinsky had filled the position until December, when she moved over to the interim county administrator role.

The commissioners had planned for Plinsky to assume her former position if she was not selected as the new county administrator, according to previous Journal-World reporting.

Though she’s not sure what will happen to the position, Derusseau said she was confident that current staff — specifically Assistant to the County Administrator Jill Jolicoeur, who serves in a similarly named but different position — would be able to assist Plinsky until the commission makes a decision.

“I know it’s a lot of work, but I have confidence in the work that (Jolicoeur) has been doing,” she said.

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