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Gibson: Showing him respect doesn't cost anything

Public officials generally don't crave the spotlight, but it shines on them anyway because of the high-profile nature of their jobs.

That could certainly be said about Mike Gibson, who was hired more than a year ago as a human resources consultant for Wadena County. A lot of concerned citizens at the time voiced their opinions that the county doesn't need such a position, nor should it spend money to figure out if the position was necessary. While that was a worthwhile debate, it has turned into something more personal and ugly since then.

While the hiring itself was done in a cloud of confusion and those opposed to it probably had some valid points, we need to separate the personalities from the position.

In his job, Gibson has done exactly what the board asked him to do: study whether a county coordinator-type position was necessary and make a recommendation to the board. Not only has he done what the board asked him to do, he accomplished his own stated goal of paying his own salary through cost savings to the county, including a reduction in attorney fees for labor negotiations.

Since his contract expired, the county board keeps hiring him to handle complex situations, such as the turmoil at the transfer station or to finish union contract negotiations. He keeps coming back with the task accomplished, but usually faces criticism each time. No one questions the quality of his work, just that he's doing it and it's costing the county money.

But let's face reality: someone on the county payroll would have to do this work if Gibson didn't, and that would cost money. Why should he be disrespected every time he takes on a new task?

Gibson has done a good job for the county -- everything that's been asked of him and then some. He was and is a leader in the community, with or without this job title. Public officials don't do their jobs expecting a pat on the back in return -- they rarely get that. But they do deserve to be treated well for a job well done.

Showing Gibson the respect owed to anyone who serves the public good costs the taxpayer precisely zero dollars.

Whether or not the county should have the position in the future deserves some vigorous debate. Gibson has made his recommendation to have the position, and the county commissioners now have the tough decision of whether or not to follow that recommendation. The ball is in their court, and if they don't hire Gibson or someone with his expertise, they need to come up with a plan B to get the job done.