The Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners began their search for a new County Administrator in earnest by appointing a search consultant. David Drown Associates was selected to help the Board during the selection process. Commissioners had a chance to speak with the newly hired consultant Gary Weir during their regular meeting on Tuesday, July 24.

Weir told commissioners that he had completed over 50 searches for executive leadership positions during his time with David Drown Associates. Before that, he was a social worker, department head, and finally County Administrator for Rice County in southern Minnesota. He told the board that they were in the “early stages right now,” adding that he appreciated the help of outgoing County Administrator Peg Heglund.

Weir will begin interviewing commissioners individually to get a better sense of what the Board is looking for. He will also meet with department heads in the coming weeks. A position listing is expected in about a month, after which Weir will help commissioners narrow the search to the top dozen candidates. The Board unanimously approved language for the position listing.

In addition to a preliminary video presentation, Weir is planning to conduct two rounds of interviews with the Board which he hopes to complete by the end of October. Heglund is set to retire at the end of the year, meaning that the county will need to select her replacement before January, 2019.

In other news:

The Board voted unanimously to join PrimeWest, a county based health provider. The decision comes after several months of debate during which commissioners weighed the pros and cons of joining other counties in a joint county based healthcare system. County Administrator Peg Heglund applauded the decision, explaining that joining Prime West would substantially lower administrative costs. Commissioner John Berends agreed, explaining that county-based health care would give more control to local providers. “I think this is the right thing to do for our community,” added Chairperson Ron Antony shortly before the vote.

A new memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the future of the old Clarkfield school building was also approved. The MOU is between Yellow Medicine County and the City of Clarkfield and establishes “terms and understandings” between the two. The old school task force is still working on a final plan, though it looks like most of the building will be demolished. The West Gym and adjacent facilities will be preserved as a community space. Commissioner Gary Johnson asked for changes to the MOU clarifying that the county would only contribute 50% of the demolition cost. Renovation expenses for the remaining structure will have to be absorbed by Clarkfield itself. His changes were included in the final motion.

The Board also agreed to join a nation-wide class action lawsuit. The lawsuit stems from misappropriation of Professional Liability Insurance Trust (PILT) funds by Congress between 2015 and 2017 which arose as a result of incorrectly drafted legislation. According to Heglund, the county probably won’t make much from the lawsuit, though she noted that there was no expense on the part of the county government. County Attorney Keith Helgeson agreed, calling the decision a “win-win,” and adding, “I don’t see any downside to us.”

Family Services Director Rae Ann Keeler-Aus updated the Board on new figures from her department. There were 23 out-of-home placements for the month of June, the vast majority in child protection. She reported that Family Services is successfully working to reduce the number of out-of-home placements.