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Team formed to handle Becker County administrative work

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A management team made up of department heads will replace the county administrator until the Becker County Board decides how it wants to proceed with county administration.

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The management team concept is similar to the "A Team" approach used in 2002 with the departure of County Administrator Al Roder.

The team then included the auditor, the treasurer, the sheriff, the human services director and the assessor, said Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen.

He will be part of the new management team, along with a half-dozen other department heads, who will be selected on their experience and willingness to serve.

"It worked out really well last time and I think it will work out well again," he said.

"We'll find out who is willing and who has time to serve on the management team," he said. The administrative duties will then be shared -- there will be a lead team member and others will handle administrative duties such as the county board agenda, and employee grievances.

The vacancy opened up when County Administrator Tom Mortenson resigned under pressure Aug. 30.

What to do about the vacant administrator position was one of the things discussed by 30-40 department heads and others (representing Detroit Lakes, the local Chamber of Commerce and the county Coalition of Lake Associations) at a working session Tuesday at the courthouse.

The county board is looking at all the options, including a full-time replacement, a part-time administrator and sharing administrators with another county or even the city of Detroit Lakes, said County Board Chairman Barry Nelson.

It was part of a larger discussion on possible ways to make county government more efficient, and redistribute the work load.

The land commissioner position has been vacant for about eight months, since Chip Lohmeier took a job with Hubbard County, and Tangen has been handling timber sales on top of his own duties.

County Assessor Steve Skoog has also been running the environmental services department -- a job that has grown much more demanding with plans for a revamped transfer station and, in a few years, redirecting the county's sold waste stream to the Perham incinerator.

Economic development Coordinator Guy Fischer has been spending a lot of his time on parks and recreation work, which Lohmeier used to handle.

The EDA Board requested a 40 percent levy hike to push its point that part of Fischer's salary should come from the parks and recreation budget.

The county board instead opted Tuesday for a zero percent increase in the EDA levy. The shortfall will be taken from EDA reserves and the issue resolved before it comes up again next year.

Some counties group departments into larger organizations, and that's also being considered.

Planning and zoning, soil and water, parks and recreation and land commissioner could be put together in a "land use department," for example, said Commissioner Larry Knutson.

Other departments could be reconfigured in similar ways. The county board is looking for whatever makes the most sense and makes best use of personnel, Nelson said.

Add them all together, and the board has some major restructuring and personnel issues to consider: Hence the working group.

It will meet again next Tuesday at 8:15 a.m. for several hours prior to the annual county road (construction) tour. The brainstorming meetings are open to the public.

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