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A change in county leadership?

With the impending retirement of Douglas County Coordinator Bill Schalow at the end of 2014, county commissioners are considering options to fill the position.

Will they hire another county coordinator or change things up and bring in a county administrator?


What’s the difference between a county coordinator and administrator?

Basically, it comes down to supervision duties.

An administrator is the head of the county for the management of the county affairs. If required by the county board, the administrator is the supervisor of all county institutions and agencies, and of non-elected department heads.

A county coordinator generally does not have a supervisory role over county department heads, elected or appointed.

In addition, an administrator is responsible for preparing and executing the county budget, and serves as the county’s purchase agent.

Douglas County Commissioners have a draft of a proposed administrator job description, but nothing has been finalized by the board.


Schalow suggested that the board make a decision during their April 15 meeting in order to get his replacement hired by November.

During the board’s work session on Tuesday, Schalow told commissioners, “Today, I thought we should have some discussion…In April I’m going to ask you to make a decision on which form of government you’d like to adopt. Then, we could move forward beginning to advertise for an administrator sometime in May/June, hopefully start interviewing in July/August and I think our time frame is hopefully having someone on board by the end of October/November.”


Commissioner Bev Bales said the board is considering if they want to do something different with county leadership with Schalow’s retirement.

She said, “The county is run spectacularly; we’ve got fantastic department heads; it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong. I think the other thought is if we have someone that has a little bit more authority than your position qualifies for now, perhaps that can be helpful to our county board, like helping put out some fires here or there and might answer some questions so that you don’t have to get a hold of [commissioners].”

Bales said the county is doing fine with a coordinator, but in visiting with other county commissioners statewide, some have been very impressed with the results of bringing on an administrator.

“I don’t know that we’re necessarily planning to go with an administrator,” Bales said.

Commissioner Dan Olson added, “The board is not giving up a lot of authority [with an administrator]. My thought… a lot of the things the administrator does are still falling under the purview of what the board’s wishes are and [the administrator] would still come to the board. [The administrator] would have more authority on the day-to-day things, which I think not only takes the pressure off the board, but it gets things done in a timely fashion. I think if we’re going to change, now would be the time to go that route.”

Commissioner Jim Stratton said, “Commissioners really need to get out of the daily operations of the county. We are paying our department heads a lot of money to do exactly that – to run their department. [The commissioners’] charge needs to be long-range planning for the county. In my opinion, I think that’s where we’re sorely lacking.”

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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