The search for the county administrator continues. The top choice of Yellow Medicine County commissioners, Dakota County Administrative Services Manager Heather Aagesen-Huebner, has removed herself from consideration following a failed attempt to by board members to rescind the initial offer.
After recessed their regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday April 9, commissioners reopened the meeting Friday afternoon to allow for an additional sit-down with Aagesen-Huebner. According to commissioner Ron Antony, the county’s original top candidate had requested the courtesy so that she would be able to further explore the area and the potential relationship with the county board in order to be sure it was the right move for her family.
YMC hired St. Paul public sector advisor, Springsted, to facilitate the search and hire of an administrator following the departure of former administrator Ryan Krosch’s move to Nicolett County at the end of 2012.
After a formal interview process and 5-0 vote in favor of Aagesen-Huebner on April 3, YMC commissioners extended the offer to the candidate. But a subsequent motion at the board’s April 9 meeting by commissioner Gary Johnson to rescind the offer saw the situation take an unexpected turn as well as lead to a testy exchange when commissioners re-opened the meeting on Friday.
Commissioners Antony and John Berends, who comprised the two votes opposed to rescinding the offer to Aagesen-Huebner, were the most outspoken regarding their displeasure with board’s actions.
Berends stated that, in Springsted, the board had hired a professional firm to facilitate the search at a cost of $13,000 and that, according to YMC Human Resources Director Tegan Laleman, the company had fulfilled its obligations exceedingly well.
“[Dave Springsted] gave us advice to act as a unified board and vote unanimously––and by not doing that we’ve suffered the consequences,” said Berends. “Dave has 30 years experience––my understanding is that he has never had this happen.”
Berends went on to say that he thought the appearance of a divided board might undermine the administrator’s role with the county––and, further, stated concerns that it might negatively impact board member relationships with remaining candidates, while also painting the county board in a poor light in general.
At the April 9 meeting, Johnson said that he had felt pressured by Springsted to present a unanimous front and suggested that he would have rather stuck true to his actual desires to place his vote with YMC Family Services Director Peg Heglund. In addition, he and commissioners Louis Sherlin and Greg Renneke would state their displeasure with Aagesen-Huebner’s request to have a second sit-down and extra look at the county, stating their beliefs that the investigation into the county’s offering is something the candidate should have done before she was offered the position.
Page 2 of 2 - Though the motion resulted in a 3-2 vote in favor of pulling the offer, the nature of this particular vote required a 4-1 majority––which, in essence, meant that commissioners could still have entered in to negotiations with the candidate. After Aagesen-Huebner was informed of the situation by Springsted, however, she withdrew her name on her own accord.
Adding a bit of irony to the situation is that commissioner Johnson would say after the meeting Friday that he had made the motion so that he could make known where he would have liked to place his original vote. He said he was surprised when his motion was seconded and even more so when it received three votes. Had he had it to do over again, he said he would have voted with his conscience the first time.
Following the discussion, and given the fallout of his motion to rescind the offer, Johnson said that he felt compelled to allow the other four members of the board to vote on the choice for administrator without him. But after things had settled he thought better of it and intends to be present when the board interviews its top three remaining candidates following this Tuesday’s upcoming meeting.
Still in consideration of the post is Redwood County Human Services Director II, Patrick Bruflat, YMC Family Services Director Peg Heglund and YMC Finance Director Michelle May.
Despite the criticisms of the situation, Berends emphasized that it was important that the board pull together and focus on the future; a notion for which the entirety of the county board concurred.
“We’re all in this together,” he said. “We have to move forward and work together and try to repair these relationships. In any event we all have to work together in the best of interests of the county.”