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Board looks to hire new human services director, county coordinator

Paul Sailer, Wadena County human services director, and Cindy Pederson, county public health director, address the board about the pros and cons of merging the two departments. Commissioners opted against the union, and authorized hiring a replacement for Sailer, who is retiring at the end of March.

At a special meeting Friday, the Wadena county board officially established a county coordinator position and decided against merging the human services and public health departments.

Commissioners have talked about hiring a top county official for years. Determining the scope of the job and how to include it into the budget took time, said Commissioner Jim Hofer.

"With the complexities of doing business these days," he said, "it's something that needs to be done."

According to the official job description, approved unanimously Friday, "the county coordinator manages various administrative and planning functions for the commissioners and oversees the county's information systems, facilities, risk management and human resource functions."

Hofer said the coordinator will earn between $60,000 and $90,000, depending on experience.

This week, after final approval of job summary language, the county will begin advertising the position in area newspapers and on the Association of Minnesota Counties website. It will also notify the other 86 counties about the opening.

According to the board timeline, by March 1 chairman Bill Stearns will name a screening committee with two commissioners, the county attorney, the auditor/treasurer, a human resource consultant and someone currently employed as a county coordinator to identify potential candidates once the application period ends March 14.

At a special meeting, tentatively scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 14, the board will interview around five finalists, and make a hiring decision in the following weeks.

Earlier Friday, commissioners accepted the resignation - with regrets - of human services director Paul Sailer, who is retiring at the end of March after 26 years leading the county's largest department.

"And I mean, with regrets," Stearns told Sailer. "I've learned a lot from you and I respect you a lot."

After listening to Sailer and public health director Cindy Pederson explain the pros and cons of merging their two departments, commissioners decided against the move. A merger would have promoted Pederson to the head of the new department, but following the staff members' presentation, several commissioners said it appeared that the action wouldn't save much - if any - money and would create too many problems.

"My initial thought is the differences are more than the similarities," Stearns said.

Instead, commissioners decided to immediately seek a replacement for Sailer.

The special meeting also included talk of a possible merger of human resources departments in Todd, Wadena and Morrison counties.

"There's a litany of items that need to be addressed over time," Commissioner Ron Noon said. "It's not going to happen overnight, if it even happens, but I think it's a step in the right direction."

In a separate discussion, Sailer told commissioners Becker County is ready to approve an agreement for Friendly Rider to handle its dispatching over the Internet.

The board passed a resolution authorizing Friendly Rider to apply for Minnesota Department of Transportation funding to add the Internet dispatching service, which could lead to a new job in Wadena.

With the technology, Friendly Rider would be able to provide dispatching services for communities regardless of location.

"We could be an outsource site," Sailer said.