by Sarah Squires
Winona County Commissioners decided to hire an executive search firm to seek a replacement for County Administrator Bob Reinert, who will leave the county in July.
The county chose Springsted, Inc., a public consulting firm, to conduct the search, which was estimated to cost about $22,000 plus potential hourly rates for added work or assessments of candidates. Another option the county had considered was asking another county’s personnel department to help conduct the search.
“If you’re going to spend money anywhere, this is the place to spend it,” said Reinert of the executive search for his top administrative county spot. He recommended hiring Springsted because of its good reputation and history doing business with Winona County.
County Board member Dwayne Voegeli said that he had questioned the move because of its cost in lean economic times, but that something tipped the scales for him. He said that the thought mentioned by firms within their proposals for the work, that sometimes the most qualified candidate is already employed and not looking for work, was a big factor for him. A firm would actually work to recruit qualified candidates, rather than just post for the position.
New board chair Marcia Ward questioned whether the county couldn’t renegotiate the price for the search, and whether there weren’t components to the process that could be done in-house. Reinert said he’d look into it, but doubted whether there was much the county could do to pare down the cost.
“This is pretty standard,” said Reinert of the firm’s quote for the project. “They don’t pad things. That’s basically the cost.”
Voegeli, who’s said that it’s also important that the selection for the position be fair and unbiased as current county employees will likely apply, said he’d like to get the search started and move forward aggressively. “I think if you want the best candidates you have to pick the best process,” he said.
Tuesday’s County Board meeting also included the appointments of new board chair and vice chair, which change annually. Ward was appointed to board chair, while commissioner Jim Pomeroy was appointed vice chair.
Reinert voluntarily turned down a raise of over $3,000 for his position. “Given the economic condition of the country, state, and things we’ll be going through at the county level, I think it would be good to set an example,” he said of the move.