Public Health: Pederson moves retirement to December

Wadena County Public Health director Cindy Pederson was originally set to retire in June. She will be working to train an associate director.

Cindy Pederson, Wadena County Public Health director

In another pandemic impact, Wadena County Public Health director Cindy Pederson is delaying her retirement to December instead of June 2021.

From June to December, Pederson will continue as director at 50% of her hours. Pederson will be utilizing the phased retirement option, which is offered through the state though a first for Wadena County. The option requires a retirement as well as keeping her title of director, Pederson said. The county will be looking to hire an associate director in the meantime.

One of the goals with the associate director is for Pederson to train the person to possibly become the next director. The position could be filled internally or externally. Pederson said the pandemic work has left little time for planning and budgeting. She sees the phased retirement as providing a smooth transition for Public Health.


The candidates applying for an associate director versus a director position as well as the six month length of the position concerned commissioner Jon Kangas. He said candidates might not apply based on either factor.

The question of combining director positions between Public Health and Human Services along with two associate director roles resurfaced. The county studied the possibility when Public Health director Karen Nelson retired in 2011 and when Human Services director Paul Sailer retired in 2014 and Tanya Leskey resigned in 2019 . The results were to not combine the positions, though commissioners Bill Stearns and Kangas said it is worth looking into again.

The associate director is also important to share the workload that Pederson would normally be doing. She said giving these duties to a nursing supervisor would not be fair.

Although commissioners wavered on advertising for the associate director position they ultimately decided it was the best choice available. The commissioners, except Kangas, approved the position.

Pederson presented the phased retirement as a $40,061 savings to the Public Health budget. The budget uses between 7-14% from the county levy with the rest from other sources such as the state. Pederson has been working to build the budget reserve since becoming director in 2011. The 2021 budget also has coronavirus relief funds. These funds allow other Public Health funds to be used for Pederson’s phased retirement and benefit payout.

The benefit payout is the compensatory time, vacation and sick time Pederson will have accrued through June 4. The benefits during her phased retirement period until Dec. 3 will not be paid out.

The county’s personnel policy states that “all” compensatory, vacation and sick time will be paid out at retirement, though labor agreements, department policies and the Merit System “supersede” the policy but these are not applicable for Pederson. A previous agreement had set the vacation and sick time payouts at certain percentages into the Health Care Savings Plan. The agreement expired several years ago.

“This is a bad situation,” Kangas said about employees having different payouts. The personnel committee is addressing the policy on several notes.


The board also approved:

  • Two agreements between Public Health and the University of North Dakota and Mayville State University for student nursing placements over the next five years. Students in a bachelor's nursing degree program have the opportunity to shadow public health nurses and work on a public health community based project, according to the agreement.
Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in feature reporting as well as enhancing online articles. Readers can reach Rebecca at 507-285-7681 or
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