County to hold meet and greet with administrator candidates

MANISTEE — Manistee County commissioners expect to make a job offer to the county’s future controller/administrator by the end of this year.

Before they do, however, the three candidates vying for the position will be present for a pair of public “meet and greet” sessions on Dec. 13.

Manistee’s Tyler Leppanen, Muskegon’s David Kieft Jr. and Cadillac’s Precia L. Garland will be available to visit with county employees, elected officials, department heads and citizens from 2-4 p.m. on Wednesday in the commissioner’s meeting room at the Manistee County Government Center — 415 Third St. in Manistee — and again from 6-8 p.m. at The Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts, 101 Maple St. in Manistee.

“With this format, people can get to know the candidates and directly ask questions if they’d like,” said county commissioner Karen Goodman.

Last week, the county board’s personnel committee — made up of Goodman and fellow commissioners Jeff Dontz and Mark Bergstrom — interviewed each of the three applicants over the course of two committee meetings that were open to the public.

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.

Narrowing the field of applications and conducting interviews with the final candidates was charged to the personnel committee, but selection of the top candidate will be up to the full board of commissioners, likely at its next regular monthly meeting, to be held at 9 a.m. on Dec. 19 in the commissioner’s meeting room.

The aim of Wednesday’s meet and greet sessions is to open the floor for further questions, from commissioners and others, in a more relaxed and informal setting.

“Commissioners, elected officials and people from the public who were unable to make the interviews, this is another opportunity for them,” Goodman said. “We want the candidates to be easily accessible and we want it open to the public. This way there can be that community involvement.”

The three candidates are expected to give attendees a brief introduction of themselves before meeting with guests.

Leppanen is the current executive and economic development director of Manistee’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA). During his interview, 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.”

Kieft, who has served as supervisor of Muskegon Charter Township since 2008, emphasized the importance of strong relationships while in a leadership role.

“I’m a person who is very much about relationships,” he said, “They build trust and make for good administrators as well as employees.

“I have a very good working relationship with our (township) board, and the reason why is because I’m transparent in what I do on behalf of our community,” he said. “Everybody gets the same fair and consistent treatment and information.”

Part of Kieft’s role as township supervisor calls for the development and oversight of a $13.4 million budget; oversight of nine township departments; and collective bargaining as a labor relations committee chairman.

“I’m a people person,” he said. “And I always make sure that I, and the people around me, are making decisions based off what they think is best for the community.”

Since 2015, Garland has been the administrator/chief financial officer of Missaukee County.

Garland told the personnel committee during her interview that she hopes to make Manistee County her home and its controller/administrator position the final stop in her administrative career.

“I think this is an outstanding opportunity professionally,” she said. “Personally, I’m at the point in my career where I’m looking at 15 to 20 years left to work and I would really like this to be my last stop of my career path.”

Prior to her role as administrator for Missaukee County, Garland served as director of the Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital Foundation and deputy/assistant city manager for the City of Cadillac, as well as its downtown development authority director.

“Leadership really comes down to your persona, who you are and how you communicate,” she said. “I am a person who, first and foremost, tries to lead with the utmost integrity.

“When I look at my resume and my skill set, and compare it to this job description, I believe I’m an exceptional match.”

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.

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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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