County interviews final candidate in administrator search

MANISTEE — Manistee County’s personnel committee on Thursday conducted the final interview in its search for the county’s next controller/administrator.

Tyler Leppanen, of Manistee, became the third candidate to interview for the job this week, joining David Kieft Jr., of Muskegon, and Precia L. Garland, of Cadillac.

The search to fill the position began in July, when current and longtime controller/administrator Tom Kaminski announced his plan to retire on Feb. 28, 2018.

The personnel committee — made up of county commissioners Karen Goodman, Jeff Dontz and Mark Bergstrom — were charged with narrowing the field of applications and conducting interviews with the final candidates.

A fourth candidate — Hartmann Aue, of Owosso — was scheduled for an interview Thursday, but informed county officials on Thursday afternoon of a last-minute scheduling conflict. Committee members agreed to withdraw their invitation for an interview with Aue.

“This is a very important position that we are taking very seriously, and are very dedicated, to finding the right fit,” said Karen Goodman, chair of the personnel committee. “It’s disappointing that it doesn’t feel like the same level of importance (for Aue). So, I’m hearing we’re at a consensus: to let Mr. Aue know that the interview process is closed.”

Leppanen, the current executive and economic development director of Manistee’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA), was asked a series of prepared questions from committee members. He cited his work ethic as well as past and current experience in leadership roles as his strongest qualities in pursuit of the position.

“I’m a very competitive and dedicated person,” he said. “I believe I’m an effective communicator and I think I’ve demonstrated that through my role at the DDA and reaching out to other agencies on behalf of the DDA.

“I think the most important piece to supervising is being empathetic to employees, understanding their positions and always looking for win-win situations,” Leppanen said. “Being a leader I would define as being able to inspire and motivate those around you.”

Leppanen has served as Manistee’s DDA director since October of 2016. Prior to that position, he worked for the City of Owosso in various roles, including assistant community development director, housing program manager and as an intern to the city manager.

“My resume shows that I have had quite a few jobs, and I think I’ve been able to adapt and learn every position I’ve had pretty quickly,” he said. “I think that’s been demonstrated in being hired out of internships and continuing to receive promotions.

“I have a wide range of experience, but what I believe would set me apart from other candidates is my competitiveness and dedication,” he added. “I expect myself to be the best and I do what I can to get better at what I do, always looking for ways to improve.”

Under the general direction of the board of commissioners, Manistee County’s controller administrator carries out directives and implements policies of the board related to research and policy development, personnel and employee relations, budget and financial management, purchasing, data processing, grant funding and other areas as directed.

The duties also entail negotiating labor agreements, handling grievances and working with legal counsel on litigated matters. The controller/administrator directly supervises staff engaged in financial management, personnel and employee relations, as well as the equalization director, housing administrator and county planner.

The position is also to provide administrative support to the board, and supervise maintenance and custodial department personnel.

Kaminski has worked in the county’s administrative office for the past 31 years, beginning in 1986 as an administrative assistant to the board.

His position evolved rapidly in the 1990s as the administrative office assumed more and greater functions of the county’s government. Kaminski was named administrator in 1991 and then controller/administrator when Manistee County adopted the controller statute in 1997.

Kieft and Garland were interviewed by the personnel committee on Tuesday. Kieft has served as supervisor of Muskegon Charter Township since 2008 and Garland has been the administrator/chief financial officer of Missaukee County since 2015.

All three candidates will be invited back to a pair of public meet and greet sessions — one in the afternoon and one in the evening of the same day — to be scheduled the week of Dec. 11-15. An exact date, times and locations for these sessions are yet to be determined.

Committee members expect a job offer to be made by the full board to one of the candidates at its next regular monthly meeting, to be held at 9 a.m. on Dec. 19 in the commissioner’s meeting room at the Manistee County Government Center, located at 415 Third St. in Manistee.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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