Wadena County Commissioners took the first steps toward hiring a new Human Services Director and setup a committee to look at that position possibly providing direction for both Human Services and Public Health.

Wadena County Coordinator Ryan Odden had several requests for board members during the Tuesday, Dec. 17 meeting, including a recommendation to update the job description of Human Services Director, to remove the position from the Merit System and to setup a committee to evaluate if combining the Human Services Department and Public Health Department would be beneficial for Wadena County. These recommendations come after the resignation of Tanya Leskey, effective Dec. 27.

Commissioners pieced through the ideas, first unanimously approving that the position be removed from the Merit System, making it an unclassified position. Reasoning behind this was that the previous arrangement did not allow for an evaluation. Making it unclassified puts the position inline with other department heads.

Next the board spoke in favor of including in the job description a preference towards someone with a child protection background. Commissioner Bill Stearns brought this idea up as it was brought to his attention that perhaps they should either make it a requirement or a preference.

Next, the board approved setting up a committee to explore combining Human Services and Public Health departments. Commissioners recommended that Cindy Pederson and Erica Keppers serve on the committee for Public Health and Amie Gendron and Cheri Dodds serve from the Human Services department. All those but Keppers were present at the meeting. As an example, County Attorney Kyra Ladd suggested this arrangement might look like one director overseeing a deputy director of Human Services and a deputy director of Public Health.

Commissioner Jim Hofer said this was a path to go down considering over the past several years, there has been discussion about how to shrink the amount of pillars, or number of department heads.

Odden said the typical hiring process takes about 90 days. When asked, Human Services staff said they were getting along, able to continue necessary functions without the director for the time.

In other actions, the board approved:

  • A tax abatement policy that included abatement for residential, apartments, commercial/industrial business development and redevelopment projects. The intent of the abatement is to facilitate projects that would result in the creation of jobs, stable employment, wages with benefits and the attraction, retention and expansion of businesses and housing options in Wadena County. The intent of the board is to provide the minimum amount of assistance, at the shortest term required for the project to proceed. The County board reserves the right to reject or approve projects on a case by case basis. The amount to be abated each year may not exceed 10% of the net tax capacity of the county for taxes payable year to which the abatement applies.
  • Named the Review Messenger the newspaper for county legal notices based on its cost and circulation.